The Bauhaus Movement and Aspen’s “Buildings-in-Exile”

August 4, 2019  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield provided opening remarks at the Institute’s Bauhaus: The Making of Modern event on August 4, 2019 in Aspen, CO. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

Good evening, everyone. I’m Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. It’s exciting to be here this evening to introduce this magnificent event, “Bauhaus: The Making of Modern.” This gathering has been long-anticipated, and we’re thrilled to be sharing it with you all—some of the Aspen Institute’s greatest supporters, partners, and friends, as well as a remarkable array of scholars and speakers.

Many people made this program possible. Thank you to…

• Our presenting underwriter, Lugano Diamonds, and Idit and Moti Ferder;
• Our Board Chair Jim Crown and his wife, the artist Paula Crown;
• Our Trustees Lynda and Steward Resnick;
• Rachel Kohler and Mark Hoplamazian;
• Melony and Adam Lewis;
• Jane and Marc Nathanson;
• Susan Taylor and Robert Pew;
• Carole and Gordon Segal;
• Harriett Gold; and
• The Aspen Outfitting Company.

Thank you to Society of Fellows Executive Director Warwick Sabin, our Executive Vice President Eric Motley, the staff of the Society of Fellows, our curator Lissa Ballinger, Kitty Boone who leads our Public Programs team, and everyone else who put their heart and soul into making this event a success. And we are so pleased that Herbert’s granddaughter Koko Bayer is with us.

Thank you all so much.

I’d like to take a moment to express particular gratitude to Lynda and Stewart for their longtime commitment to ensuring the preservation and legacy of the Bauhaus movement, especially here on the Aspen Institute’s home campus. Lynda and Stewart, with the help of their brilliant curator Bernard Jazzar, are truly the stewards of our aesthetic heritage.

And as we announced yesterday, Lynda and Stewart are now taking their commitment to the next level of impact with a transformational gift to the Aspen Institute of $10 million to establish the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies. Lynda has also agreed to become the chair of the new Art Collection and Exhibitions Committee of the Board of Trustees.

The new center will preserve and honor the art of a creator whose work represents the fullest expression of the Bauhaus movement in America, and who also is this Institute’s aesthetic founder and the designer of the majestic campus on which we sit today.

Thank you so much, Lynda and Stewart, for your vision, leadership, and generosity.

Over the next two days, we will take a deep dive into the history and principles of the Bauhaus—”the making of modern.”

We will explore the historical and political contexts that paved the way for the birth of this influential approach to design.

We will learn about some of the unsung heroes of the school and movement.

We will discuss the diaspora that occurred after the school’s doors were closed and consider its ripple effects—the ways in which artistic disciplines, principles, and practitioners have been inspired in the generations since.

For example, the artist and writer Edmund de Waal, whose family suffered profound injustice at the hands of Nazi evil, visited this campus for the first time and told me that he saw the structures Herbert created as “buildings-in-exile.”

It was a reminder to me of the obvious—the Nazis closed the Bauhaus School and persecuted many of its practitioners—and also of something more subtle: that America is in many ways a nation of immigrants and refugees, that cultures fuse and morph and influence and renew one another in marvelous ways.

Would we necessary immediately think of the Institute’s campus as projecting and reflecting the aesthetic of persecuted immigrants? Perhaps not. But let’s explore that idea the next few days—and remember the extraordinary continuing contribution of immigrants to the making of America.

The Aspen Institute’s inception in 1949 beneath these very mountains is central to the story of the Bauhaus and the shaping of the Aspen, Colorado community. Our campus is a “total work of art” designed by a Bauhaus master and a facilitator of dialogue, collaboration, and creativity.

It’s therefore so fitting—and our great privilege—to be able to host this event here during the 100th anniversary of this extraordinary tradition of design and creative expression.

I’m especially interested to learn how Bauhaus principles can inform our creative work today—not only in the arts, but in public policy, civic engagement, and entrepreneurship. This campus hosts leaders from across the country and around the world. Our mission is to create positive change by inspiring inclusive dialogue and preparing leaders to solve some of our greatest challenges.

My conviction is that the Bauhaus principles are not just good for our past, but they are good for our future.

Thank you for listening.