A year-long festival will celebrate those artists who made an impact in the UK after escaping the Nazis. Jane Clinton looks at what’s on offer
28 February, 2019 — By Jane Clinton
An example of George Adams’ work, c1923. Photo: Archive of George Adams/Sara Adams
GEORGE Adams may not be a household name but his influence in the Bauhaus movement cannot be ignored.
Born in Vienna, this prolific graphic designer came to England in 1938. He was a key figure in bringing Bauhaus ideas to the UK via Belsize Park and his teaching at the London College of Printing.
A year-long festival celebrating the cultural impact of emigrés fleeing Nazi Europe in the 1930s and 1940s will showcase his work at the Isokon Gallery near the Isokon Modernist flats in Lawn Road, Belsize Park.
The nationwide Insiders/Outsiders festival will feature architecture, dance, design, film, fine art, literature, music, photography and theatre.
Its creative director, Hampstead-based Monica Bohm-Duchen, says it will pay tribute to “a disappearing generation” and mark their cultural legacy.
“It will also honour those British-born individuals who, in welcoming and working with these émigrés, chose openness and inter-
nationalism,” she adds.
This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus art school in Germany, beginning one of the most famous art and design movements of the 20th century. (There will also be exhibitions at Tate Britain and at Sotheby’s in the summer to mark this anniversary).
Less well known is that several of its key players escaped to the Lawn Road Flats, or Isokon building (as it came to be known) in the mid-1930s, including Bauhaus professors Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy.
The flats with its bar and dining club became a magnet for international artists, writers and thinkers.
Insiders/Outsiders, which also coincides with the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, was two years in the planning.
While the motivation was for a public acknowledgement of these émigrés’ contribution, the idea for such an homage also has a deeply personal dimension for Monica.
Both her father and her mother (the celebrated photographer, Dorothy Bohm) fled the Nazis. They made their home in Hampstead (where Dorothy still lives) and thrived in the UK.
Dorothy, (whose photographs of children are on display as part of the festival at the V&A Museum of Childhood) would go on to co-found The Photographers’ Gallery.
“Sadly there are fewer and fewer of that generation still alive and it is so important that their contribution is remembered,” says Monica.
More design can be seen at Émigré Poster Designers, which opens at London Transport Museum on March 29. It includes works by well-known émigré designers including Hans Schleger (who worked under the name “Zero”) Hans Unger and Moholy-Nagy.
Other events include a lecture series on emigré art at the Courtauld Institute. Starting on April 30, it will focus on key individuals including Kurt Schwitters, Oskar Kokoschka and Marie-Louise von Motesiczky.
In dance there will be performances and workshops at Trinity Laban celebrating pioneering choreographers such as Rudolf Laban.
Jewish Book Week will feature emigré writers and there will be film screenings in the JW3 centre among others.
Accompanying the festival is a volume of essays, Insiders / Outsiders: Refugees from Nazi Europe and their Contribution to British Visual Culture, edited by Monica with contributions from Sir Norman Rosenthal and Antony Penrose among others.
Monica is aware of how timely this exhibition is.
“At a time when the issue of immigration is headline news, this festival will serve as a reminder of the importance of cultural cross-fertilisation and of the deep, long-lasting and wide-ranging contribution that refugees can – and do – make to British life,” she says.
Paul Vincze, who features in the British Museum’s current exhibition celebrating medallic art, Witnesses: émigré medallists in Britain, summed up in 1975 when asked about nationality.
“I am Hungarian. My wife is French. We are British.”
• For details of the Insiders/Outsiders Festival go to www.insidersoutsidersfestival.org
• George Adams – Bauhausler in Britain is at the Isokon Gallery from March 2-October 27. For opening times see www.isokongallery.co.uk
• Insiders/Outsiders: Refugees from Nazi Europe and their Contribution to British Visual Culture. Edited by Monica Bohm-Duchen, Lund Humphries, £40