Hannah Höch – All Beginnings are DADA!

16 January – 4 May 2008

dada-cordial: Hausmann and DADA Berlin
Born in 1889 in Gotha into a middle-class family, Hannah Höch studied in Berlin under Emil Orlik at the Institute attached to the Museum of Applied Arts, financing her studies by working as a draughtswoman for needlework patterns at the publishing house Ullstein. In 1915, she met Raoul Hausmann with whom she shared a difficult but passionate relationship until 1922. These were artistically extremely fruitful years for Höch, and through her masterly and amusing-symbolical collages and objects, she was able to assert her position within the male circle of egocentric Berlin Dadaists – Hausmann, Johannes Baader, George Grosz, Richard Huelsenbeck and John Heartfield.

In summer 1920, she participated in the legendary “First International Dada Fair”.

Equilibrium: ornament, abstraction and concretion
After her separation from Hausmann, Höch was free to embark on relationships with artists such as Hans Arp, Theo von Doesburg and his wife Nelly, El Lissitzky, Piet Mondrian, László Moholy-Nagy, Kurt Schwitters and others, with whom she collaborated on an artistic level. A network of artistic friendships developed throughout Europe. In 1926 she met the authoress Til Brugman in Holland and lived with her until 1935 in The Hague, and later in Berlin.

These years were marked by a varied and multiple œuvre that reflects Höch’s urge for personal and artistic freedom.

Wilder Aufbruch (brutal departure): survival under the Nazi regime
The political and cultural climate in Germany changed drastically even before the Nazis came to power. New trends in literature and art came under attack by the authorities and numerous avant-garde artists left the country. The hostile climate and banishment led Höch to withdraw all the more into herself, and in 1939 she retired to a small house in Berlin-Heiligensee – an “ideal spot to be forgotten”, where she was able save herself as well as numerous works of art of her avant-garde friends from seizure by the Nazis.

The works of this period, created in seclusion, are a clear-sighted commentary of the prevailing circumstances.

Voyage toward the unknown: vitality and the mature period
The end of the Second World War brought freedom from the artistic gag and an end to the existential threat. Hannah Höch was recognised as an important historical witness of the beginnings of modern art in Germany and for the significance of her contribution to modern art altogether. Until her death in 1978 she continued (one of the few remaining artists from the Dada art scene) to produce a valid and virtuoso late oeuvre that was strongly influenced by colour photography, an increasingly popular medium.

Wenn die Düfte blühen (When perfumes bloom)…: Hannah Höch’s garden
Plants, nature and garden were important themes of Höch’s work: in its vulnerability, the plant appeared as the pendant to human sensitivity and the image of human existence. The garden as a place of freedom and beauty, of the wondrous and the strange is Höch’s real global artwork – a true utopia in which to realise the autarchy and multiplicity that she yearned for.

This exhibition conceived in collaboration with the Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, has received additional loans for Basel from Swiss and German collections, thus enabling a representative survey of the life of this extraordinary artist.

Virtual Tour