Though Germany's Bauhaus art and design school existed for a mere 14 years, the influence of the institution’s holistic approach to creation still resonates in contemporary art, architecture and graphic design. The school’s legacy is especially apparent in Chicago’s skyline, which boasts two prominent buildings designed by former Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: the Kluczynski Federal Building and the AMA Plaza (formerly, the IBM Plaza).
Another of Van der Rohe’s structures, the modular McCormick House, lies to the west of Chicago on the campus of the Elmhurst Art Museum, the only U.S. institution chosen to host traveling exhibition “The Whole World a Bauhaus.” Assembled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus’s founding, the show collects paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and objects that were produced between 1919 and 1933.
Divided into eight chapters with titles like “Art, Crafts and Technology” and “Experiment,” the show features items that reveal the school’s various fields of study, like a ceramic coffee pot created in a Bauhaus workshop and vintage photos developed using experimental processes. Among the displays, guests will spot objects such as printed publications and a chair made of metal piping that, nearly a century after it was conceived, still exudes a sense of modernity.
Outside of its galleries, the Elmhurst Art Museum supplements its celebration of the Bauhaus with a full slate of programming, including discussions with scholars and a virtual-reality experience that allows users to explore a digital recreation of the building that housed the school in Dessau, Germany. The McCormick House is also open to visitors, hosting a pair of installations by local artists Assaf Evron and Claudia Weber.
While figures like Van der Rohe and László Moholy-Nagy are synonymous with the iconic movement, “The Whole World a Bauhaus” looks beyond the school’s most famous alumni and faculty, commemorating a meeting of creative minds and a wellspring of new ideas. As the only United States stop on the exhibit's tour, it's worth a trip to Elmhurst to see this collection of Bauhaus works for yourself.
“The Whole World a Bauhaus” is on display at the Elmhurst Art Museum through April 20.