Hannah Höch, dada

by SF

Press Release

Hannah Höch – All Beginnings are DADA!

Museum Tinguely, Basel: January 16 through May 4, 2008

The Museum Tinguely presents the first extensive survey in Switzerland dedicated to Hannah Höch (1889-1978), the sole woman member of the group Dada Berlin. The exhibition covers the period from her early Dada years during and immediately following the First World War through the 1920s, a fertile phase in her career during which Höch was in contact with numerous important avant-garde artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp, Theo van Doesburg. She collaborated in part with them, producing masterly collages, profound yet ironical. During the 1930s and ‘40s, she worked in total retirement and secrecy – and her works contain a cryptic criticism of the National Socialist regime. Her late works, less known, in which she appears to anticipate Pop Art by her themes and colours, were her reaction to new scientific discoveries of the day. To close the exhibition, a section will be dedicated to Höch’s garden – a recurrent theme throughout the artist’s oeuvre.

Having exhibited in the course of the last years various important artists of the Dada movement, the Museum Tinguely is the ideal platform for a presentation of Hannah Höch’s work. But, as the constant defender of individualism, Höch is furthermore close to the kinetic artist Jean Tinguely and his source of inspiration, anarchism.

The exhibition was conceived in close collaboration with the Berlinische Galerie, seat of the Hannah Höch archives; it is organised in a chronological order and divided into five sections, opening with Höch’s large-scale photo-collage Lebensbild that the artist created in 1972/1973 so to speak as a sort of visual autobiography. The collage harks back to numerous important works that the visitor can encounter throughout the exhibition.

dada cordial: Höch, Hausmann and DADA Berlin

Hannah Höch was born in 1889, into a middle-class family in Gotha, where she spent her youth. She studied in Berlin under Emil Orlik at the Institute attached to the Museum of Applied Arts and financed her studies by working as a draughtswoman creating needlework patterns for the publisher Ullstein. In 1915, she met Raoul Hausmann, with whom she had relationship until 1922; the affair was a passionate one but for Höch also difficult as Hausmann, who had been married since 1908 to Elfriede Schaeffer, was not willing to leaving his wife and daughter. He attributed the difficulties of their affair to Höch’s “patriarchal-authoritarian” upbringing which had marked her and which, in his opinion, she had to overcome.

Though difficult for Höch in her private life, these years were extremely fruitful for her as an artist and the young woman was able to assert her position within the male circle of egocentric Berlin Dadaists – Hausmann, Johannes Baader, George Grosz, Richard Huelsenbeck and John Heartfield – through her masterly, though amusing-symbolical collages and objects. Thus, in the summer of 1920, she participated with works in the legendary “First International Dada Fair”.

Main works in this phase of her career such as the collage Dada-Rundschau as well as the two Dada-Puppen reveal Höch to be an alert and witty commentator of the political and social changes after the First World War.