Colour extravaganza – Thonet design classic featured in Bauhaus museum
Jay Gard creates a special edition of the B 9 tubular steel stool for visitor seating at the Bauhaus Museum Dessau, plus two limited ‘artist’s editions’
The Bauhaus centenary was cause for a multitude of celebrations in 2019. The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation opened a new museum that showcases an extensive collection of original pieces with a connection to the famous art school, as well as contemporary work. One of these pieces is the B 9 tubular steel stool, first designed by Marcel Breuer in 1926 and now revamped by Jay Gard for the Bauhaus Museum Dessau and Thonet GmbH: there are precisely 100 of these one-off colourful stools designed by Gard as visitor seating for the museum. The colour concept of his vibrant artwork entitled “Margaretha” is based on the hues of a children’s room carpet designed by Margaretha (Grete) Reichardt, one of the most successful Bauhaus artists, in 1929. He has also designed two artist’s editions (Margaretha 2 and 3), which can be purchased from the museum shop.
During his Bauhaus Centenary Residency in the summer of 2019, Jay Gard (born 1984 in Halle/Saale) worked extensively with furniture pieces created during the Bauhaus period. “For me, the B 9 by Marcel Breuer, with its brilliant design and perfect interplay of curved metal and angular wooden top is much more than a piece of furniture – it’s a marvellous piece of art,” says Jay Gard. When the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation asked if he would like to create a special edition of the B 9 stool as visitor seating for the new museum, he jumped at the chance. Gard found the history behind Marcel Breuer’s B 9 tubular steel stool, an icon of modern design in the 20th century, fascinating. At the time, Gropius and Breuer themselves argued over whether the stool should be an article for mass production or an artistic design. The “Margaretha” and “Margaretha 2” collections are the result of the interplay between Breuer’s design, Reichardt’s colours and Gard’s interpretation. They come together to create a new artistic work, in which the age-old question of individual authorship resonates.
Jay Gard took inspiration for his latest work from a hand-woven children’s carpet designed by Margaretha “Grete” Reichart, an important designer who emerged from the Bauhaus weaving workshop. “What really intrigued me were the materiality and the colours of the woven carpet, which is part of the exhibition, but also the fact that it is a work of art with a practical use,” says Gard regarding his choice of reference object. He separated out the individual colours of the carpet and added new shades too, inspired by shadows and reflections. This resulted in around 30 different colours that the artist mixed and matched on the tops of the visitors’ stools. In Gard’s design the seat tops are in a single colour with the underneath and sides being multi-hued and providing a fan-like interplay of colour, so that each stool is a unique work of art. Gard applied the special and finely pigmented acrylic paint to the wooden seats with a roller during his Bauhaus residency in the Meisterhaus Schlemmer.
The classic piece of furniture, which was originally part of Breuer’s four-piece nesting table (B 9 a-d), has precisely the right dimensions to be used by the museum guests as a stool that they can also pick up and move around to sit wherever they like while taking in the surrounding exhibits. “The stools get rearranged every day. Through this playful movement the visitors can really feel how the colours interact with each other. I’m sure that physically experiencing colour like that unleashes quite a bit of creativity,” enthuses the artist who has been working with colour harmony and interplay for many years.
With the “Margaretha 2” and “Margaretha 3” collections, Jay Gard was able to use his many years’ experience of working intensively with colour in a new way: the colours taken from Reichardt’s carpet were applied to thin pieces of plywood, which he cut into small strips with a laser cutter. He then pieced these together to create patterns on the surfaces of 30 additional stools – some circular, some in s-shapes. The result was a pair of limited, one-off artist’s editions that are available for purchase in the Jörg Klambt museum shops in Berlin, Potsdam and Dessau for 1,200 euros apiece.
For the artist, working with the stools brought another new aspect: ”Because of the limitations – the dimensions of the stool couldn’t be changed, for example – I was actually able to work more concretely and with more focus than if I had been completely free in my artistic work. This restriction only increased the creative potential. The residency also required me to leave my familiar surroundings in Berlin and my studio that is tailor-made for my work. This too created restrictions, but it also allowed me to concentrate with razor-sharp precision on Grete Reichardt’s colours and the Bauhaus.”
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