“Arbeitsrat für Kunst” art and architecture group in Germany

Stamp of the Arbeitstrat für Kunst, 1918.
Stamp of the Arbeitstrat für Kunst, 1918.

The Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers’ Council for Art) was an art and architecture organisation in Germany.

Background

Under the leadership of Bruno Taut, the radical Arbeitsrat für Kunst was established in 1918 and rapidly grew in membership to include sculptors Rudolf Belling, Oswald Herzog, and Gerhard Marks. Otto Bartning, Walter Gropius, Max Taut, and Erich Mendelsohn were among the architects, as were painters Ludwig Meidner, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Lionel Feininger.

The group’s original purpose, similar to the revolutionary workers’ and soldiers’ councils formed in Germany in the chaotic aftermath of World War I, was to exert political power through art, but this was not realised. According to its manifesto, ‘Art and the people must form a unity… From now on, the artist alone, as a moulder of the people’s sensibilities, will be responsible for the recognisable fabric of the new state.’

Gropius succeeded Taut as the leader in 1919, abandoning the group’s political ambitions favouring the symbolic ‘Bauprojekt.’ Because of a lack of raw materials, hyperinflation, and extreme political turmoil, no institutions were built. The group’s efforts were focused on publications and exhibitions. The first Bauhaus programme, Weimar, of which Gropius became director the same year, was similar to that of the Arbeitsrat. In Berlin, the group published Ja! Stimmen des Arbeitsrates für Kunst (1919) and Ruf zum Bauen (1920). (1920). It was merged into the Novembergruppe after disbanding in 1921.

Exhibitions

Among its exhibits was the 1919 ‘Ausstellung für Unbekannte Architekten.’ Workers’ and children’s art exhibits in Amsterdam and Antwerp in 1920, ‘Neues Bauen,’ and modern German art exhibitions in Amsterdam and Antwerp in 1920.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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