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Birgit Jooss

Arnold Bode as a designer

Arnold Bode had already worked as an interior architect and furniture designer in the 1930s and resumed this activity after the war. He built commercial trade fair and exhibition stands for large companies and designed furniture, posters, cardboard boxes, wallpapers, patterns for linoleum coverings, decorative foils, and fabric prints for them.

He worked together with numerous firms, including Göppinger Kaliko- und Kunstleder-Werke GmbH in Göppingen, Württemberg, the wallpaper company Rasch in Bramsche near Osnabrück, Korrekta-Werke GmbH in Bad Wildungen, and many more, from which the early documenta exhibitions benefited considerably.

Arnold Bode had already worked as an interior architect and furniture designer in the 1930s. His dismissal as an art teacher and his exclusion from the art scene after 1933 forced him to work anonymously with his brothers, primarily with Paul Bode. Returning from the war and American captivity, he resumed this work again to earn a living and support his family. He built commercial trade fair and exhibition stands for large companies and designed furniture, posters, cardboard boxes, and wallpaper, patterns for linoleum coverings, decorative foils, and fabric prints for them.

He designed so-called plastics for the Göppinger Kaliko- und Kunstleder-Werke GmbH in Göppingen, Württemberg. These printed plastics were used both for interior design and as upholstery for furniture. He called his collection »abstracta 54« and extolled the possibility of adding rhythmic, colorful decorative accents to the room.

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Arnold Bodes younger Brother;
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Monochrome and transparent foils without décor were used prominently at the first documenta exhibitions for wall covering and light filtering, which lead to excellent documentation of the exhibitions by the photographer Günther Becker . The Göppinger Werke had commissioned him to do this.

Chagall-Saal, göppinger plastics as a material for spatial design at the first documenta, 1955
© documenta archiv / Photo: Günther Becker / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

Bode also designed for the wallpaper company Rasch in Bramsche near Osnabrück. As the issuer of Bauhaus wallpapers since 1929, it was known for its proximity to art and architecture. Even after the war, it distinguished itself with artist collections and invited important representatives of modern art to collaborate.

Arnold Bode was also active as a furniture designer. He showed his designs in 1951 at Constructa, the first important international building exhibition, in Hannover. He had produced them for the exhibition stand he had created for Korrekta-Werke GmbH in Bad Wildungen, which manufactured foam rubber. In 1952, he was represented at the Cologne furniture fair with three models. Later, in 1956, he designed the seating of the German Pavilion at the XI Triennale in Milan. Again and again he made use of successful forms and transformed ideas of others for his needs.

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Arnold Bode's private apartment in the 1950s with furniture designed by himself

© documenta archiv / Photo: Günther Becker

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Barcelona Chair 250, 1929

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

This procedure is conclusively attested to by the armchair jokingly called »Mies van der Bode.« The design was inspired by the form of the Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe from 1929, without copying it exactly. Bode called this »purposeful, imaginative experimentation.« However, his furniture designs never went beyond the status of small series or unique pieces.

Furniture design by Arnold Bode, the so-called "Mies van der Bode armchair".  
© documenta archiv / Photographer unknown

Bode was particularly successful as a trade fair stand builder. For the Göppinger Kaliko- und Kunstleder-Werke, he designed the booth at the Düsseldorf plastics fair in 1952, which earned him international recognition in trade fair construction. From the beginning of the 1950s, other clients including Elektrowerke Stemag, Jenaer Glaswerke Schott und Genossen, Arzberg-Schönwald, Thomas Porzellan, and Pott-Bestecke ordered stands made by Bode for various trade fairs. The highlight was when he was awarded the gold medal for the architecture of the German Pavilion at the XI Milan Triennale in 1957.
From 1961, Bode also advised Rosenthal AG in Selb on artistic issues.

View into the German Pavilion designed by Arnold Bode at the XI. Milan Triennale, 1957
© documenta archiv / Photographer unknown

more about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
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