But the general public still often confuses the legacy of the Bauhaus.
“For many students, it’s a recognizable name from art history,” said John Silvis, a New York and Berlin-based art adviser and professor of art at Minnesota’s Bethel University. The model of a collaborative, open-dialogue school was also new. “Before that, it was more of a master-apprentice model. The master told the apprentice what to do.”
But the average German, he says, doesn’t know so much about the school.
Arthur Cohen, a founder of New York-based brand consultant LaPlaca Cohen, says the failure to protect the name means less revenue from license fees for the museums, which receive federal and private-support as nonprofit entities. “Had there been agreements early on that are strong and enforceable, not only would there be an ability to protect and enforce what the Bauhaus legacy is,” he says, “but there also would be revenue streams.”
“It’s particularly challenging for members of the public who didn’t grow up knowing about the Bauhaus tradition and ideals to identify or understand what it is now,” Cohen says. “It has been diluted.”
The Bauhaus Archive in Berlin has 20 or so employees and another 30 contractors at the small museum and library, which has more than 100,000 visitors each year. By contrast, the Bauhaus AG has 18,000 employees now and is focusing on opening more stores.
Christine Hall, a U.S.-born artist in Berlin and faculty member of Bauhaus University in Weimar, touches on Bauhaus ideas with some of her work. She said people are interested, but confused, when she tells them she teaches at the Bauhaus University, which is housed in some of the original Bauhaus buildings but is not the actual Bauhaus. “We tread carefully around the history of the Bauhaus,” she said.
Meanwhile, many of her art students shop at the Bauhaus brand of stores to pick up lumber, paint and other art supplies.
“It’s a source of much confusion, even for us,” says Andreas Kühnlein, a spokesman for the Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau. He says his office regularly receives call from people asking where to buy wood or other building materials.
He recently took a trip to Sweden and Finland. When he told people he worked for Bauhaus, “they all thought I was standing by the saws or something.”
Glader, who is based in Berlin, is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post. He is managing editor of the Web site www.wiredacademic.com, which follows education innovation.