November 20th, 2015 by smow

The inclusion of a sheet steel bookend amongst our photos from the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts exhibition “Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual” resulted in one or the other queried look in our direction, enquiries after our health and even questions as to if all our other photos were so unusable that, in our desperation, we had been reduced to using a shot of a piece of understatedly painted bent sheet steel.

No, no we replied, all was good. As were the rest of our photos.

That bookend however, produced as it was around 1930 by the Gotha based Ruppelwerk metal fabricators, is and was an excellent example of how the ideas of modernism washed away the aesthetic conventions and standards of Art Nouveau and Art Déco. And of how Bauhaus graduates played a central role in that process.

Bookrest from Ruppelwerk Gotha (ca 1930), as seen at Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual,Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

Bookrest from Ruppelwerk Gotha (ca 1930), as seen at Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual,Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

Established in 1870 by the brothers Emanuel and Abraham Ruppel1, Ruppelwerk Gotha began life as an ironmongers business before quickly developing into a manufacturer of sheet steel objects, initially industrial goods, in particular for the then fledgling automotive industry but from 1897 also “Galanterie- und Luxuswaren”2 – modish and luxury goods – essentially household goods but those aimed at the burgeoning middle class of the late 19th/early 20th century rather than the simpler worker folk: napkin holders, ink wells, powder boxes and all manner of smoking tools and paraphernalia. In 1928 the Bauhaus graduate Wolfgang Tümpel was engaged very briefly by Ruppelwerk to design new objects for the Galanterie- und Luxuswaren range3 before in December 1929 Marianne Brandt arrived in Gotha and took on the responsibility of creating new objects and generally overhauling the existing collections.

Born in Chemnitz in 1893 Marianne Brandt née Lieb initially studied painting and sculpture at the Großherzoglich-Sächsischen Hochschule für Bildende Kunst in Weimar before in 1924 she enrolled in its successor institution, Bauhaus Weimar. Moving with Bauhaus to Dessau in 1926 Marianne Brandt began working in the institution’s metal workshop in 1927 before being appointed assistant head of the metal workshop in 1928. Following her graduation in 1929 Marianne Brandt initially spent some five months working in Walter Gropius’s atelier in Berlin before on December 10th 1929 she took up a position with Ruppelwerk GmbH in Gotha.4

Which brings us to the bookend.

In 1935 Walter Gropius wrote to numerous Bauhäusler to ask what they had undertaken since leaving Bauhaus, with whom they had cooperated and in how far they had been able to put the Bauhaus ideals into practice.

In her answer Marianne Brandt is humble almost to the point of sounding embarrassed.

“It has not been easy for me to assemble a list. Hopefully one or the other item meets with your approval”, she begins before later in context of her time with Ruppelwerk noting “I was generally assured I had managed to transform the rather convoluted and sad portfolio into something more contemporary”5

Included with her letter was a series of images of Ruppelwerk products created before she arrived and ones created under her leadership, largely one suspects to allow Gropius to see what she had achieved.

Amongst the “before” products are two simple bent sheet steel bookends with the comment from Marianne Brandt: “form really good, but the decoration!”6

The “after” photos combined with the post 1930 price lists nicely illustrate how Marianne Brandt altered the Ruppelwerk collection; in particular the images in price list Nr. 141 perfectly illustrate how Marianne Brandt advanced the Ruppelwerk bookend collection.

In her 1935 letter to Gropius Marianne Brandt wrote that “in place of the so-called luxury requirement and “novelty items” I took into full account the nature of the production to introduce things which for me represent a genuine need and which correspond to practical requirements. Rather than painted or stencil applied “decoration” I focussed on setting an accent through using different coloured parts (e.g. wooden balls and chrome plated metal), attached by screws or rivets.”7

And that is pretty much what was done. The illustrated bookends often being devoid of decoration, when then very minimal, graphic and structured, but more often than not the individuality of the pieces is accentuated through additions to or disruption of the quadratic form via indentations and curves. For us however the zenith of Marianne Brandt’s evolution of the Ruppelwerk bookend can be seen in price list Nr. 134 from the second half of 1933 which features a bookend with page markers – a very reduced, unassuming bookend to which is attached three small nickel page markers. For where are you likely to need page markers if not while standing at a bookcase….

Marianne Brandt Villa Esche Chemnitz Aschenbecher

An ashtray and other objects by Marianne Brandt for Ruppelwerk Gotha, as seen at the exhibition “Marianne Brandt” at Villa Esche Chemnitz

Which brings us back to the Grassi museum’s bookend and the, perhaps, given what we’ve just written, somewhat surprising question, if it is from Marianne Brandt?

Marianne Brandt was employed at Ruppelwerk Gotha from 1929 until 1932, and so the the bookend in question was produced during her tenure; yet the nature of her time there is such that there is no way of knowing with 100% certainty which objects she developed – everything is simply listed as “Ruppelwerk”.

The curators of Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual haven’t listed their Ruppelwerk bookend as being by Marianne Brandt. The curators of the 2009 exhibition “Modern, aber nicht modisch – Bauhauskünstler in Gotha” staged at the Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha listed an identical piece in green and grey as being by Marianne Brandt.8 We tend to side with Grassi, simply because of Marianne Brandt’s stated desire to move away from “painted or stencil applied “decoration”. The design is however quadratic and abstract enough, and represents enough of a move away from the “before” styles and of Marianne Brandt’s use of colour, to make us genuinely query our own conclusion. And so…….

However the exact providence of that exact bookend is not the important issue. The bookend stands simply as representative of Marianne Brandt’s time at Ruppelwerk and the works she realised; for despite the relatively short time Marianne Brandt spent in Gotha her time at Ruppelwerk is one of those excellent reminders that Bauhaus wasn’t all about the “star” names and the celebrated Meisters, “normal” Bauhaus graduates worked with real companies, producing real products and instigating real change through the consistent and committed application of what they had learned in Weimar and Dessau.

And thus in a simple bent sheet steel bookend we have not only a lovely example of how the move from Art Nouveau through Art Déco to Modernism progressed but also how Marianne Brandt developed as a designer.

Thus quite aside from happily publishing one photo of one bookend we’d happily publish a series of photos of a series of bookends to illustrate that story in its full glory

Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual runs at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig until Sunday April 3rd. Full details can be found at

1. Ruppelwerk in Gotha Schriftenreihe des URANIA Kultur und Bildungsverein Gotha e.V. zur Firmengeschichte der Stadt Gotha Heft 17, 2000, Gotha

2. ibid

3. “”Modern, aber nicht modisch” – Bauhauskünstler in Gotha”, Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha, 2009

4. ibid

5. Bauhaus Archiv 10797/1-6

6. ibid

7. ibid

8. “”Modern, aber nicht modisch” – Bauhauskünstler in Gotha”, Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha, 2009

Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual @ Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

Art Déco: Smart, Precious, Sensual @ Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

Posted in Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , , ,

November 3rd, 2015 by smow

Since 2000 the International Marianne Brandt Contest has been searching for the Poetry of the Functional in art and design.

That the triennial competition is still running doesn’t mean they have yet to find it, rather underscores both the variety of interpretations inherent in the phrase and also the evolving nature of poetry, functionality and the relationship between the two: there is no definitive answer just an irregular array of contemporary, potentially fleeting, best fits. And over the years the International Marianne Brandt Contest has featured some genuinely excellent fits: Mechthild the Hummingbird by Christoph Schmidt, Comfy Cargo Chair by Stephan Schulz or 2tables by Anna Albertine Baronius, to name but three.

For the sixth edition of the competition the organisers have chosen the theme “Material Effects” – on the one hand a nod to last years “Cradle to Cradle” theme and on the other a reference to the importance materials played not only in the Bauhaus education model but for all in the development of Marianne Brandt’s own understanding of form, function and aesthetics – and are now inviting submissions for the three categories: products, photographs and experimental design.

Open to designers, photographers, but also scientists, craftspeople, artists and indeed anyone under 40 and creative, the 2016 International Marianne Brandt Contest offers total prize money of €15,000 in addition to a series of non-financial awards from, amongst others, the Neue Schule für Fotografie Berlin, USM Haller, Vitra and smow Chemnitz.

Entries can be submitted until Tuesday May 31st. Full details on how to enter can be found at

As ever, and in the interests of openness and transparency, smow Chemnitz are a long-term sponsor and partner of the International Marianne Brandt Contest.

Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt - Prize winner product design at the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010

Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt – Prize winner product design at the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010

Posted in Awards, Exhibitions and Shows, International Marianne Brandt Contest Tagged with: , ,

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Werner Jackson puppets
March 17th, 2015 by smow

Following the necessary disruption of their permanent exhibition to accommodate the recently ended exhibition Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste, the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin have taken the opportunity afforded to redesign their exhibition concept.

And in doing so have allowed a very welcome fresh wind to blow through their museum.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: Sammlung Bauhaus

Presented under the title Sammlung Bauhaus – The Bauhaus Collection – the new permanent exhibition still provides only the very vaguest of vague overviews – explaining the complete Bauhaus story in the few square meters available in the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin’s museum space is never going to be possible; however, with the new layout and exhibition concept the Bauhaus Archiv have achieved a display that goes far beyond that offered by the previous permanent exhibition, have created a much more entertaining and accessible exhibition than was previously the case, and that although there is, if we’ve judged it correctly, less on display. A nice illustration of less is more, as one of the more illustrious Bauhaus illuminato would no doubt phrase it.

In addition to looking at the three Bauhaus locations, how the school functioned, the major protagonists and the areas in which the Bauhaus was active, the new permanent exhibition also explores Bauhaus through closely related institutions, be they institutions inspired by Bauhaus such the so-called New Bauhaus in the Chicago or the HfG Ulm in Germany, or contemporaries of Bauhaus such as Burg Giebichenstein Halle, an institution which opened some four years before Bauhaus and which in its teaching and artistic philosophy was just as avant garde and challenging. In addition the new permanent exhibition helps explain that much as Bauhaus was a place of eduction it was also a movement that sought to be at the vanguard of new ideas and developments for building and living. Something it can be easy to forget when one gets too bogged down in the popular visual imagery of a few “Bauhaus Classics” and forgets the context in which they were created, and for all why.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Marcel Breuer Kitchen Vogler Surgery Berlin 1929 Kitchen Chair 1924

A Kitchen for the Vogler Surgery Berlin (1929) and a Kitchen Chair (1924) all by Marcel Breuer, as seen as part of the new Sammlung Bauhaus, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Parallel to unveiling the new permanent exhibition the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin are also opening a new temporary exhibition presenting some 100 new and recent acquisitions. Although neatly complimenting the sense of renewal given by the new permanent exhibition and underscoring the fact that a museum such as the Bauhaus Archiv is a dynamic and forward looking institution, viewing “100 New Objects” is also a gentle stroll down memory lane, featuring as it does objects acquired in context of some of the Bauhaus Archiv’s more interesting recent special exhibitions, including, for example, Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer. Herbert Bayer. Werbegrafik 1928 – 1938, Katsura Imperial Villa. Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro, or 2010’s Hajo Rose – Bauhaus Foto Typo. Among a vast array of photographs, paintings, furniture objects, toys, ceramics and arts works, the highlights of the recent acquisitions for us are a fascinating chair from 1932 by Hansgeorg Knoblauch, a work that wouldn’t look out of place in the Centraal Museum Utrecht’s exhibition Klaarhamer according to Rietveld, Ferdinand Kramer’s disposable Rainbelle paper umbrella, and a desk lamp designed in 1932 by Heinrich Siegfried Bormann for the Leipzig based manufacturer Kandem, and which serves as a nice reminder that Bauhaus graduates did work for real industrial firms and did produce real industrial products that have their own charm without necessarily being promoted to the aforementioned level of “classic”. Simply being good. Or very good.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Lamp Heinrich Siegfried Bormann Kandem

A lamp by Heinrich Siegfried Bormann for Kandem, as seen at 100 New Objects, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

It was recently confirmed that the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin will receive its much discussed and mooted extension; viewing the two new exhibitions it is very clear why the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin needs its extension.
All going to plan, and assuming bureaucracy and vainglorious, litigious architects don’t get in the way, the extension will be finished in 2019, punctual to the celebration of Bauhaus’s centenary. And thus not a moment to soon.

Bauhaus isn’t the be all and end of all of 20th century architecture and design, nor is it a movement that has any hallowed right to a pedestal particularly higher or more prominent than any other; however, as a moment in European cultural history it was very important and remains as relevant now as it ever was. The new Bauhaus Archiv Berlin permanent exhibition is an excellent location for discovering and understanding why, and provides the necessary motivation to set you out on your own path of discovery and understanding. Which is of course exactly what such a permanent exhibition should do.

100 New Objects runs at the Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhöferstrasse 14, 10785 Berlin until Monday May 25th. Sammlung Bauhaus, the permanent exhibition, at the same address albeit, and as the name implies, permanently.

Full details, including opening times and information on special events and tours can be found at

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , , , ,

December 23rd, 2014 by smow

Cold as February 2014 unquestionably was, we managed to warm ourselves with exhibitions looking at the 1920s medial representation of Bauhaus Dessau, the life and works of Marianne Brandt and the work of Berlin based designer Birgit Severin. And got all excited by some USM window fittings!

usm window handle

A USM window handle!!!

Marianne Brandt Villa Esche Chemnitz Kaffeemaschine

A coffee percolator, by Marianne Brandt as seen at Villa Esche Chemnitz

Birgit Severin Lifetimes at the DMY Design Gallery Berlin

Birgit Severin Lifetimes at the DMY Design Gallery Berlin

bewundert verspottet gehasst Das Bauhaus Dessau im Medienecho der 1920er Jahre Metallische Fest

Photos from the 1929 Metallische Fest, as seen at bewundert, verspottet, gehasst - Das Bauhaus Dessau im Medienecho der 1920er Jahre

Posted in Bauhaus, Producer, smow, USM Haller Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Marianne Brandt Villa Esche Chemnitz Tastlicht 1929-1932
February 6th, 2014 by smow

By way of an addendum to our addendum to our “5 New Design Exhibitions for February 2014” post…… Until June 8th 2014 the Villa Esche in Chemnitz is presenting a special exhibition devoted to the artist and industrial designer Marianne Brandt.

Built in 1903 by Henry van de Velde for the Chemnitz textile magnate Herbert Eugen Esche, the Villa Esche is not only a wonderful example of Henry van de Velde’s approach to architecture and his understanding of his responsibilities in context of the architectural Gesamtkunstwerk, but being one of his earlier projects also provides some delightful indications of the move from Art Nouveau to Modernism that he helped initiate. Of the move from the decorative to the functional.

And as such is a more than fitting location for a presentation of Marianne Brandt’s work.

Born in Chemnitz in 1893 Marianne Liebe studied drawing at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst Weimar, before in 1919 she married the Norwegian painter Erik Brandt and moved to Oslo. In 1924 Marianne Brandt joined Bauhaus Weimar, moved with the institution to Dessau in 1925 where in 1926 she took up a position in the metal workshops, famously working alongside the likes of Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Christian Dell. Following her graduation from Bauhaus in 1929 Marianne Brandt worked as a designer for various companies/design studios including spells with Walter Gropius in Berlin and the Ruppelwerke GmbH in Gotha. Post World War II Marianne Brandt taught briefly at both the Hochschule für Werkkunst Dresden and the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee before returning to Chemnitz in 1954 to work as a freelance designer. Marianne Brandt died on 18th June 1983 in Kirchberg, Sachsen.

Despite leaving us the most intoxicating canon of artistic and design works, and being one of the few truly successful female modernists, Marianne Brandt is, sadly, one of the lesser acknowledged Bauhaus graduates, and, save the odd tea pot and ashtray in the Alessi collection, barely exists.

Particularly sad is her relative anonymity in Chemnitz.

The triennial Marianne Brandt Contest does a truly wonderful job of keeping her memory and legacy alive, but aside from that….

Chemnitz is very keen to market itself as  “Stadt der Moderne ” – “City of Modernism”; however, a quick read, and it is a quick read, of the official city website reveals that aside from a few house in the Kaßberg quarter, the Villa Esche and Erich Mendelsohn’s Schocken department store, the city struggles to find anything to confirm its modernist aspirations.

Marianne Brandt doesn’t even get a mention.


Things may however be starting to move in a more positive direction. In spring 2015 the city’s Industry Museum will unveil a newly organised permanent exhibition, which will, potentially, hopefully, devote more space to Marianne Brandt. The exhibition in Villa Esche is in many ways a foretaste of what is to come.

Marianne Brandt at Villa Esche isn’t a large exhibition, is however one of the broadest presentations of Marianne Brandt’s life and work we have seen in a long time and in addition to original examples of her product design work includes photos by and of Marianne Brandt, sketches, letters and a presentation of the current Marianne Brandt Alessi collection

Among the most interesting objects on display are a handwritten CV, a metal ball Marianne Brandt used for experimental photography and a letter confirming her appointment to the staff at Bauhaus Dessau.

150 Reichsmark per month was apparently the going rate.

In addition there is a 1935 letter from László Moholy-Nagy in which he recounts how he had recently met Walter Gropius in London, how both had regretted the lack of opportunities they could offer Marianne and in which he encourages her to learn English so that he can try to organise a position for her in the UK.

Which is just the most tantalising proposition. A classic case of, what if….?

All the products on show in the exhibition, save a 1925 cigarette box, originate from the period 1929-1932, so her time with the Ruppelwerke in Gotha and in addition to underscoring the multi-faceted nature of Marianne Brandt’s talent, her almost unnerving ability to effortlessly convey function through formal elegance, also remind us that modernism was often colourful. Something it’s all too easy to forget when the only records one normally has are black and white photos.

Presenting some 50 objects Marianne Brandt at Villa Esche is probably too small to be worth a special trip to Chemnitz; however, if you happen to be in Chemnitz it is well worth finding the time.

For all residents of Chemnitz it should be compulsory.

Fuller details can be found at

A few impressions:

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , ,

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013
October 18th, 2012 by smow

Older readers will be well aware of the high esteem in which we hold the Bauhaus educated designer Marianne Brandt.

And of the fact that every time we write about her we invariably end up offending half of Saxony.

So. Deep breath. Fingers crossed. Here goes…..

In 2013 the Chemnitz Art Society Villa Arte will be hosting the 5th International Marianne Brandt Contest.

A triannual celebration of international contemporary design the 5th edition of the competition not only continues the search for objects and photographs that represent the “Poetry of the Functional” but also promises a one day Marianne Brandt symposium.

Which we think is an excellent idea.


Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Marlen Pelny performs a Marianne Brandt poem under the artist's watchful eye.

One of our highlights of 2012 was the exhibition “Bauhaus. Art as Life” at the Barbican in London.

Not just because the flight to “The Island” meant the chance to enjoy a couple of genuinely decent beers on the way home, but also because of the new dimension to many of the Bauhaus proragonist’s outputs it presented.

Including of course Marriane Brandt.

In our interview with the curator Lydia Yee she flagged up Brandt’s collages as being among those rarely seen objects that had helped her better understand Bauhaus and its legacy.

We can only concur. But not just the collages. The exhibition was awash with rarely seen perspectives on Brandt’s work.

Design being what it is it is all too easy for a designer to be reduced to one or two “trademark” objects while the rest of their life’s work is simply ignored.

Yes Marianne Brandt’s tea service is excellent. But is one project. Exploring the rest of her work you discover aspects of her character and philosophy that you simply cannot extrapolate from a tea service.

“Bauhaus. Art as Life” presented that chance and while the International Marianne Brandt Contest is without question an excellent platform for keeping the life and work of Marianne Brandt in the public eye, a little more explanation of who she was, what she did and why she is so important wouldn’t go amiss. And would ensure that she remained relevant for young designers. We hope the symposium can achieve that.

Barbican Art Gallery Bauhaus Art as Life Marianne Brandt

A selection of lamp designs by Marianne Brandt at "Bauhaus. Art as Life"

In addition to the regular Product Design and Photography categories, the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest includes the special category “Cradle to Cradle” for Sustainable Design.

Which makes our hearts sink a little. Or to be honest, a lot.

For us “Sustainable Design” awards are a bit like 3D films – a passing bandwagon that everyone suddenly feels that they need to jump on. Regardless if they know the final destination or not.

Why not just make sustainability a criteria for winning the prize?

Job done.

Looking back at the 2010 International Marianne Brandt Contest many of the entries were sustainable. Very sustainable even. And it is to be expected that many 2013 entries will also be. Intelligent contemporary designers working outwith the confines of commercial contracts invariably consider resources, life-cycles, energy supply and recycling/disposal when developing their projects.

Making “Sustainable Design” an extra category doesn’t help advance any dialogue about sustainability in design, rather it keeps it as a “feature” in the public’s view. However if design is to be truly sustainable we all – designers, consumers, “lifestyle bloggers”, manufacturers, politicians – have to understand stability as part of design’s remit.

Regardless, we’re just happy to have the International Marianne Brandt Contest back.

We’ve missed it. Honest.

The 2010 International Marianne Brandt Contest famously introduced us to two projects that still excite and fascinate us – Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt and Damensattel by Caspar Huckfeldt – and we fully expect the 2013 edition to be just as stimulating, invigorating, innovating and challenging.

Entries for the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest cannot be submitted until May 2013 and so you’ve got time to develop a killer project.

The competition is open to all designers, regardless of how professional. The only proviso is that you must be under 40: which of course sadly rules out most residents of Chemnitz.

So close. Sooooo close.

More details on the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest can be found at

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

Posted in Awards, Bauhaus, Designer, International Marianne Brandt Contest Tagged with: , , , , ,

Stephan Schulz - Comfy Cargo Chair. Still lovin' it!
September 28th, 2010 by smow

Awards ceremonies are all well and good – but much more important is the exhibition to accompany the contest.

And until October 10th the Industrial Museum Chemnitz is hosting the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010 exhibition.

We had planned to write a long text – changed our mind and instead present here a few impressions of our pick of the exhibits.

We can however strongly recommend the exhibition; not only for those interested in art and design – but also for all those who are open to new ideas and new thinking.

And for those can’t make it to Chemnitz – the winning projects will be on display in Leipzig during Designers Open (October 29-31) and in November at the Sächsische Akademie der Künste in Dresden.

More information can be found at

MOA by Eva Marguerre and Marcel Besau - finally the succesor to NIDO

MOA by Eva Marguerre and Marcel Besau - finally the succesor to NIDO

Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt - Prize winner product design at the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010

Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt - Prize winner product design at the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010

Öffnungszeiten by Sylvia Stadtmüller

Öffnungszeiten by Sylvia Stadtmüller

Sonja Jobs - Infinite Calender (detail)

Sonja Jobs - Infinite Calender (detail)

Stephan Schulz - Comfy Cargo Chair. Still lovin' it!

Stephan Schulz - Comfy Cargo Chair. Still lovin' it

Posted in Awards, Exhibitions and Shows, International Marianne Brandt Contest Tagged with: , , ,

September 27th, 2010 by smow

Although the Marianne Brandt Contest is on the surface about Marianne Brandt, the awards ceremony in Chemnitz on Friday stood very much under a different star.

“Chemnitz – Stadt der Moderne”/ “Chemnitz – The Modernist City”

Every single official speech rammed home the message; “Chemnitz – Stadt der Moderne” being repeated ad nauseum ad infinitum in the hope that if one said it often enough it may just come true.

“I want a pony !” “I want a pony !” “I want a pony !” “I want a pony !” “I want a pony !”

Now we’ve nothing against city marketing – just the evidence to back up Chemnitz’s claim to be a centre of European Modernism is slim.
And that’s using the evidence provided by Chemnitz itself, evidence which largely confuses “modernism” with “modern”

If Chemnitz is so up-to-date and modern....... ?

If Chemnitz is so up-to-date and modern....... ?

The irony of the whole situation is that as one could easily hear from Chemnitz Mayor Barbara Ludwig’s speech – Marianne Brandt is a strong enough character in her own right.

One doesn’t need to hijack such an event to force “Chemnitz – The Modernist City” down the throats of an audience intelligent enough to know that the claim being made is nothing more than a tawdry piece of city marketing.

Marianne Brandt’s legacy shines a thousand times brighter.

Fortunately all the prize winners very much in the spirit of Marianne Brandt.

Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Photography winner Alexandra Grein in conversation with host Thomas Bille

Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Photography winner Alexandra Grein in conversation with host Thomas Bille

The main photography prize, for example, was awarded to Düsseldorf based photographer Alexandra Grein for her wonderful collage series “Terra”. Conceived as an homage to the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich the individual works in “Terra” are constructed from satellite images of those locations which Caspar David Friedrich visited and which inspired him.

Collage as a photographic discipline is of course something Marianne Brandt made regular use of – Alexandra Grein, in effect if not intentionally, “Bauhausing” the discipline by updating it through the combination of modern computer technology and satellite imaging.

Also the main prize in the category product design could easily have come from Brandt or one of her contemporaries.

The Hummingbird Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt is, if we’re all honest, nothing more than a bit of origami with a paper clip in its beak.

The Eames DSR is also just a chair.

“Mechthild” arose because Christoph Schmidt was looking for a solution to filling some holes in his wall. Rather than just putting in bits of plaster or covering them up with a photo – he designed “Mechthild”.

Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Product design winner Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt

Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Product design winner Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt

“Mechthild” doesn’t just fill the hole; “Mechthild” uses the hole to create something. And in doing so not only turns a problem into an opportunity but also wonderfully demonstrates what can be achieved if one understands the materials you are working with and are able to think outwith the boundaries set by conventional design theory.

Which of course is something Bauhaus taught us all.

What we particularly like about “Mechthild” is that as with Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, “Mechthild” casts shadows on the wall – shadows that change as the light in a room changes – and as such plays an active role in the interior design.

The highpoint of the awards for us were obviously the presentation of the (smow)-USM Haller special award to Berlin based designer Tonia Welter for her collection of USB jewellery and the (smow)-Vitra special award to Caspar Huckfeld for his delightful bike saddle.

But more on Tonia Welter, Caspar Huckfeld and Christoph Schmidt later.

As we sat through the opening speeches we genuinely feared that Chemnitz was at risk of soiling the image of one its true stars in the name of city marketing.

As we left the Oper we were much happier.

Not only because it was clear that the prize winners understood Marianne Brandt’s legacy, but also the wonderful musical interlude which saw a Marianne Brandt poem set to music, beautifully demonstrated that the organisers of the Marianne Brandt Contest also understand why they do what they do.

We just hope that in the future they continue to do that – and that Chemnitz finds itself a new, and appropriate, slogan.

Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Marlen Pelny performs a Marianne Brandt poem under the artist's watchful eye.

Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Marlen Pelny performs a Marianne Brandt poem under the artist

Posted in Awards, International Marianne Brandt Contest, Producer, Product, USM Haller, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Marianne Brabt Exhibition
September 23rd, 2010 by smow
Industrial Museum Chemnitz NOT Industrial Museum, Chemnitz

Industrial Museum Chemnitz NOT Industrial Museum, Chemnitz

When we heard that the 2010 International Marianne Brandt Contest exhibition was going to be held in the Industrial Museum, Chemnitz, our first thought was: that’s a bit harsh.

We know the city’s fortunes haven’t been the best since the end of the DDR  – but to label the whole city as nothing more than a tourist attraction dedicated to artificially maintaining happier memories of times long since past….

Hardly fair.

It turns out that the Industrial Museum Chemnitz is actually a Museum in Chemnitz devoted to Industrial history.

Our mistake.

Held under the motto “The poetry of the functional” the 2010 Marianne Brandt Contest sought entries in the two “regular” categories – product design and photography – plus this years “guest” category  “Light in public spaces”

And the organisers weren’t disappointed – some 410 entries from 12 countries were submitted, a clear increase in comparison to 2007.

The exhibition in the Industrial Museum Chemnitz presents the prize winning entries plus a selection of further commended works – and thus allows both a nice overview of the submitted works plus the chance to assess the juries verdict in context of the other entries.

In addition to all the objects that one expects to see at such a show the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010 exhibition has also some real gems of creativity.
And a couple of old (smow)blog favourites can also be admired and adored.

We don’t want to rain on any ones parade and so we’ll keep our powder dry until next week when we’ll present not only our review of the exhibition but also our report and photos from the awards ceremony.

We know that involves going to Chemnitz twice in two days, but…. what can you do.

Marianne Brabt Exhibition

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2010 Exhibition -we'll lift the veil on Monday

Posted in Awards, Exhibitions and Shows, International Marianne Brandt Contest, smow Tagged with: ,

January 15th, 2010 by julius

Chemnitz is without doubt the ugliest city in Sachsen. If not Europe.

And so it is all the more surprising that the town produced one of the most gifted aestheticians of the Bauhaus generation: Marianne Brandt.

A student of, amongst others, László Moholy-Nagy, Josef Albers and  Wassily Kandinsky, Brandt is best known for her home accessories including ashtrays, coffee/tee services and lamps. Many of her works are part of the permanent collection at leading museums including the Museum of Modern Art, MoMa, in New York.

To honour the city’s most most talented daughter, Chemnitz organises an triennial Marianne Brandt Contest and 2010 sees the fourth edition.

Under the motto “Poetry of the Functional” the 2010 Marianne Brandt Contest has three categories: photography, product design and light in public spaces.

The contest is open to all students and other creative youths under 40 years old as of 10.06.2010 and who have their main residence in Europe.

Full details of how to enter and what can be won can be found in the official 2010 Marianne Brandt Contest announcement.

Posted in Awards, Design Competition, International Marianne Brandt Contest, smow Tagged with: , ,