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Laura Diermann

»Do German designers have to be furious?« — The case of Wagenfeld

1964: Already at two documenta exhibitions, the curators presented important individual works by various Bauhaus artists. At the parallel exhibition "Industrial Design" of documenta 3, however, the wish of an artist not to exhibit was ignored.

Instead of a sincere apology, there was only a need for explanation and an attempt by those responsible to appease the situation:

The parallel exhibition "Industrial Design and Graphics" at documenta 3 opened on August 22, 1964, at the Staatlichen Werkkunstschule Kassel and was on view until October 31, 1964 9/9. As a member of the documenta Council, the director of the Werkkunstschule, Jupp Ernst, was responsible for the Industrial Design department. He selected several works by renowned designers, among them Bauhaus artists like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Herbert Hirche, and Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Max Bill declined, exhibiting only in the Graphics section headed by Karl Oskar Blase.



However, Bill was not the only one who did not want to make his works accessible to the public. Wilhelm Wagenfeld also decided not to present his works in the “Industrial Design” section. Instead of exhibiting, he wanted to intensify his work with industry and improve his designs, especially after his works have been shown in Zurich, Amsterdam, Munich and Berlin. The curators resolutely disregarded this wish, although Wagenfeld declined twice.



Nevertheless, Jupp Ernst and his team continued listing Wagenfeld's industrial designs, which were produced at Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik, and requested photographs for the catalog.

more about the documenta 3
Index: Organizations
more about Jupp Ernst
Index: People
more about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Index: People
more about Herbert Hirche
Index: People
more about Wilhelm Wagenfeld
Index: People
more about Max Bill
Index: People
more about Karl Oskar Blase
Index: People

© WMF Group GmbH / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg

© WMF Group GmbH / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg

© WMF Group GmbH / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2019

© WMF Group GmbH / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg

© WMF Group GmbH / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2019

© WMF Group GmbH / Foto: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg

Max Bill: Besteckmodell Form
© WMF Group GmbH / Foto: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2019

Ignoring Wagenfeld's wish, they decided to exhibit several works in the «Industrial Design» section.

Wagenfeld himself was not informed. He did not find out until he received the catalog to the parallel exhibition. In November, he approached Ernst, telling him how disappointed he was about this uncooperative behavior and accusing him of having shown «a completely one-sided and thus false picture» of his work with industry.

»
I was not pleased with this course of action. Rather, I think that after my letter it would have only been fair to forego my participation. (...) Unfortunately, I had not expected the exhibition management to proceed in this way (...).
«
Source

Letter Wilhelm Wagenfeld to Jupp Ernst 20.11.1964, Marburg, HStAM, 429/2 Nr 84

Jupp Ernst to Wilhelm Wagenfeld on November 26, 1964
© Felix Gephart / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg

Wilhelm Wagenfeld to Jupp Ernst on the November 20, 1964
© Meike Noll-Wagenfeld / Photo: Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg



Ernst's mollifying words the documenta’s exhibition »Industrial Design« and »Graphics« a complete success, were followed by an attempt to shift the blame; after all, he said, it would have been Hans Eckstein, Willem Sandberg, and Dietrich Mahlow who exhibited the work of a well-known designer such as Wilhelm Wagenfeld. In doing so, »the responsibility for the quality of the exhibition (...) had to be given higher priority than the current opinion of the creator«, the exhibition organizer concluded and appealed to Wagenfeld:

more about Hans Eckstein
Index: People
more about Willem Sandberg
Index: People
more about Dietrich Mahlow
Index: People
»
Now a word among friends: Do German designers have to be furious?
«
Source

Letter Jupp Ernst to Wilhelm Wagenfeld, 26.11.1964, Marburg, HStAM, 429/2 Nr 84


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