What influence did Expressionism and Objective Modernism exert on the state aesthetics of the first German democracy? How were decisions concerning the design of national emblems such as the eagle and the flag made?
The art historian and Werkbund member Edwin Redslob held the historically unique office of Reichskunstwart, or “national custodian of art”, in the Weimar Republic. In that capacity, he tried to apply principles of modern design to shape a national visual identity – in coats of arms, signs, banknotes, postage stamps, documents, and seals. All of the state emblems were to be redesigned to reflect the new parliamentary democracy and distinguish it from its predecessor, the German Empire.
The Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge explores Redslob’s estate to trace the decision-making processes, both political and artistic, examining the conditions and necessities of his time and ours.
The renewal of the national emblems played a central role in the newly formed parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic. Edwin Redslob developed formal guidelines for this purpose, the artistic composition was mainly created by representatives of the expressionism and functional modernism.
You can see works by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Siegmund von Weech, and other artists and graphic designers of the Weimar period. The exhibition also deals with the so-called "Flag Controversy" of 1926 about a uniform color combination as the basis for all official flags in the German Reich, as well as the Inflation as an aesthetic phenomenon with so-called »Notgeld« notes by Herbert Bayer and Kurt Tuch.
The wall installation "Metamorphoses of a heraldic animal" is documenting the process of redesigning the "imperial eagle" to a "democratic eagle". Formal and aesthetic discussions between the Reichskunstwart, artists, politicians, and the population led to a constant revision of the proposals. Numerous debates were held in parliament and in public about the appropriate shape and design. These controversies as well as the tolerated coexistence of different coat of arms illustrate the aesthetic and social contradictions in the Weimar Republic.
Today the national flag and the federal eagle are symbolizing a social unity based on a democratic constitution. The historical eagle designs shown in the exhibition are an invitation to compare, reject, and reflect, and raise principal questions about a state's self-representation.
What symbol does a democracy need? The visitors are invited to reflect on a suitable symbol. This opens up the possibility to perceive the designs as artistic products of its period.
In the exhibition, the Werkbundarchiv - Museum der Dinge shows loans from Edwin Redslob's estate from the Federal Archives in Berlin-Lichterfelde (Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde) and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, among others.
Invitation to regular evening tours / discussions with the curators*:
Every Thursday at 7 pm the Werkbundarchiv - Museum der Dinge offers a free guided tour (with regular admission) through the special exhibition. Up to 10 people can participate.