Memento mori or eternal Modernism? The Bauhaus at MoMA, 1938





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


On the occasion of the exhibition which I co-curated at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) with Leah Dickerman in 2009 for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus (and the 80th anniversary of the founding of the museum), I delved into the museum’s archives to shed light on the political context as well as the complex logistics of the museum’s earlier Bauhaus exhibition staged in 1938. The museum’s 1938 book that accompanied that important episode in the early reception of the Bauhaus in America remained the standard work on the school and its art philosophy in the English speaking world until the publication of the English translation of Hans Maria Wingler’s monumental Bauhaus in 1969. This essay, addressing the exhibition staged in New York and the misconceptions about the Bauhaus it set in motion for many years, is based on a lecture I gave at the exhibition symposium; a version of that text was published for the first time in a book of essays published in honor of one of my professors at the University of Cambridge, Jean Michel Massing, in 2016. This is a slightly modified version for the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, a decade later.

How to Cite

Bergdoll, B. (2019). Memento mori or eternal Modernism? The Bauhaus at MoMA, 1938. Docomomo Journal, (61), 8–17.




Author Biography

Barry Bergdoll, Columbia University

Barry Bergdoll is Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University. From 2007 to 2014 he served as the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, producing numerous exhibitions on historical and contemporary architectural topics, including, with Leah Dickerman, Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity in 2009.


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