I cannot think of a better way to celebrate a beautiful New York fall weekend than with a visit at the Neue Galerie; or of a better place to be surrounded by beauty than in its current exhibition ‘Wiener Werkstätte 1903-1932: The Luxury of Beauty.’ This exquisite retrospective, co-curated by Christian Witt-Dörring and Janis Staggs, tells the complete and fascinating story of one of the most successful ventures in the history of modern design, the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops). The brainchild of Josef Hoffman, it was a collective, built upon the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and existed for nearly three decades. While it was never a real financial success, it was fed by passion, that of its founders and of a small group of passionate collectors, mainly Jewish, for whom modern design was the best way to announce modern identity. The 400 objects on display, ceramics, drawings, fashion, furniture, glass, graphic design, jewelry, metalwork, textiles, wallpaper, illustrate the evolution of the Workshop and its luxurious aesthetic from the founding years, through the teens, and into the concluding years and its closing in 1932. I loved the models of its most ambitious buildings, the Palais Stoclet and the Sanatorium Purkersdorf, and even more, the last room in the exhibition that contains the concluding chapter of the venture, capturing the ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, which stood at the core of the Werkstatte’s agenda. A must for anyone interested in design, beauty, and taste. But the lack of labels, what a small technical issue, which has taken so much away from this amazing design experience; I hope that this will change as the exhibition continues.
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