Bauhaus at the Barbican

Can someone explain to me how you can buy a Travelcard (from Brighton) online? As it happened, the ticket office at London Road beat the online best, coming in at £13.80 (with senior railcard), but it meant I missed a train! Also, on the Barbican website, I could have saved a quid by booking online, but I'd have to specify a time! Ah well, swings and roundabouts.

I was off to see the Bauhaus: Art as Life exhibition at the Barbican, not a venue I relish, so it's London Road > Brighton > East Croydon > Farringdon (spanky new station) > Barbican tube, then follow the yellow line to the Art. it's £8 to get in and it starts upstairs on the balcony. Now I love the Bauhaus, I've been to the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin and have fond memories of the Modernism exhibition at the V&A back in 2006, but I'd heard it's not that good - a Torygraph writer was particularly disappointed, so, I treated it as work (I have a book to write on graphic design) and dived in.

From the outset, however,  I was impressed, and over the edge of the bacony got a preview of the treasures to come, downstairs. It's just so good to see real artwork - the holes where Kandinsky put his compass to draw less-than-perfect circles, the postcards they loved sending each other, the home-made diplomas. They must have had so much fun - they were just so MODERN, doing the 60s in the 1920s, with their jazz bands, miniskirts and geometric hairstyles. And I'm delighted by the odd anachronism that crept in, like on Peter Keler's design for Moholy-Nagy's studio: just a bare room painted in three shades of grey with a one-legged table in the corner holding a slim record player, but with the curved trumpet form of a gramophone arm upsetting the perfect rectilinearity of it all. I couldn't find an image of it, but here's another from the same series.

There was no photography allowed and of course that particular gouache was neither in the £32.95 catalogue nor available as a £1 postcard (the postcards were from the Bauhaus-archiv) so you'll have to take my word for it. There was lots lots more to love: all the famous chairs (and you can even see them in a catalogue where you could actually order and buy a Mies van de Rohe tubular steel job, brand new), the lamps, the teapots, the textiles. Then there were the toys, the very weird puppets, sculpture, woodcuts, typography, colour wheels and exercises, Petshop Boys-style dance costumes, experimental photography, adverts for Nivea creme... but most of all it's the personal stuff, the questionnaires, the letters, the photos of teachers and students having a wild time before the killjoy Nazis put a stop to it. It's not really about the artists, though, but there are enough Paul Klees, Kandinskys, van Doesburgs, Feiningers on show to satisfy anyone. If you ever went to art school, you owe them all a huge debt; if you didn't, like me, you'll wish you were around between the wars when there was everything to live for. It's on until 12 August.

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