Although admittedly never quite as successful as the Wiener Werkstätte or Bauhaus, the designers and artists who organised themselves in the Artěl collective still played an important role in the development of the European arts and crafts movement in the first part of the 20th century.
For all their contributions in the field of “3D cubism” – be it product design or architecture.
The exhibition “Tschechischer Kubismus im Alltag. Artěl 1908 – 1935″ presents a wide ranging retrospective of the group’s work and in doing so helps place their history and influence in the context of the development of the applied arts in Europe.
Curated by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague and premiered in 2008 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the formation of Artěl, Leipzig is the exhibition’s final venue following stations in Ghent and Valencia.
Ahead of the exhibition opening we spoke with Dr Helena Koenigsmarková, director of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague about Artěl and the exhibition.
Grassi Blog: Let’s start a little at the beginning – why did the artists and designers come together in 1908 to establish Artěl ?
Dr Helena Koenigsmarková: In this period, at the start of the 20th century, there were similar groups, so the Wiener Werkstätte or Bauhaus. The architects, artists, textile designers etc, who formed Artěl were all still young, still in their early 20s, and they wanted to establish this taste for the Modern in Prague and so help open up the market for local products and local artists.
Grassi Blog: And why did they never achieve the same success as their colleague in the Wiener Werstätte or at Bauhaus?
Dr Helena Koenigsmarková: Artěl was founded in the years before the First World War, and then following the war the Czechoslovakia was established and in this period so the 1920s they received no support or contracts from the state. And so financially everything was very difficult. The decision to close in 1935 was largely an economic decision.
Grsasi Blog: The Grassi Museum in Leipzig is the only Germanic station for the tour. Why the decision to come to Leipzig?
Dr Helena Koenigsmarková: Naturally the relationship to the Grassi Museum and especially to the Grassimesse is very important, Artěl were present at the Grassimesse in 1927. But also we as the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague have numerous partner museums throughout Europe and so when we can cooperate with them we do such gladly.
Grassi Blog: And as a final question, do you have a favourite object in the Exhibition?
Dr Helena Koenigsmarková: Personally that would be the toys because in the past I have worked with them and I was also responsible their catalogue entries. I suppose I have have always been attracted to them, they have such character. They are wonderfully unique items and are so modern yet obviously inspired by traditional folk art.
Tschechischer Kubismus im Alltag. Artěl 1908 – 1935
25.03-3.10.2011 in the Grassi Leipzig Applied Arts Museum, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig.
In addition to the exhibition itself there is also a wide ranging programme of accompanying events and tours.
More information can be found at: http://www.grassimuseum.de