For Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015, MoMA commissioned Katharina Gaenssler to create a photo-mural right outside the exhibition galleries on the third-floor platform of the Museum’s Bauhaus Staircase, which is inspired by Walter Gropius’s famous staircase in the Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany. Gaenssler photographed that stairway, as well as two works that reference it, both in MoMA’s collection: Bauhaus Stairway (1932) by Oskar Schlemmer and Bauhaus Stairway (1988) by Roy Lichtenstein. She collaged the resulting thousands of pictures together in an installation that explores the relationship between MoMA and the influential modernist school, tracing the history of the Bauhaus’s monumental contribution to the history of art and architecture through works of imitation and homage. In the process, she adds a new artwork to this lineage.
One of the greatest privileges of working with living artists is seeing them at work. Over the course of four days, we watched Gaenssler create her installation on the Museum’s walls (as did some curious visitors). Below are photographs that trace the evolution of the work as it was created, page by page, brushstroke by brushstroke.
Quentin Bajac, The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, has described her photo murals as “all-encompassing and monumental, forcing the viewer to engage with [them] physically and to re-examine the exhibition space itself.” They construct and deconstruct the sites of art production and presentation, but are themselves ephemeral, coming down when the exhibition ends. Gaenssler’s Bauhaus Staircase gains additional poignancy by being the last work exhibited in this space before the stairway and galleries are renovated as part of MoMA’s building project.
Renovation of MoMA’s Bauhaus Staircase begins February 1, however Katharina Gaenssler’s Bauhaus Staircase will remain on view as part of Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015 through March 20.