CULTURE VULTURES: Welcome to Berlin's haus of form

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The Independent Culture
THE OLD East-West division of Berlin has made it a compelling city for art lovers: because of the schism, galleries, theatres and opera houses all exist in duplicate. Berlin is, as a result, intimidatingly rich in major museums. Visitors flock to the Museumsinsel (or Museum Island) in the centre, the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Pergamon, but away from the traditional tourist haunts is a rich proliferation of smaller, specialised collections. Puzzlingly, one of the least visited is the Bauhaus A rchive,home to a spectacular body of work from one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century.

There are, of course, other small museums worth a detour. One is the Berlinische Galerie, devoted to the work of artists with connections, however tenuous, with the city. Another is Charlottenburg Palace, where you can see not only part of Frederick the Great's collection of French 18th-century art, but also some of the masterpieces of German Romantic painting. There is even a museum dedicated to the turbulent work of Die Brucke (The Bridge), the short-lived group of early Expres-sionists based in Berlin before the First World War.

But the one place that should not be missed by the dedicated art lover is the collection of work from the Bauhaus, the most famous and influential art school of modern times. Founded in 1919 in the provincial city of Weimar and driven from there by reactionary politicians in 1925, the Bauhaus made its home in the industrial town of Dessau before ending up in a disused telephone factory in the Berlin suburb of Steglitz (from 1932 to 1933). There, within months of Hitler becoming German Chancellor, its life was extinguished by the Nazis, for whom it was too radical and international in outlook.

By then, however, its influence was already spreading throughout Europe and North America. That influence continues, for better or for worse, to affect the look of our own man-made environment and the curriculum of our art schools.

The biggest collection of Bauhaus work anywhere can be seen here in Berlin: in the Bauhaus Archive which, in spite of its location within a short walk of the New National Gallery, is one of the city's least visited museums. It is also one of the visuallymost appealing. The building, designed by the founder and first director of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, is itself a work of art, and contains a rich and varied collection of paintings, sculpture and prints, plus examples of furniture, meta l work, textiles, photographs, architectural plans, models and theatre designs.

Among the paintings are outstanding works by some of the greatest modern masters: Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlem-mer, all of whom taught at the school. No less exciting is the craft and design work by teachers and students: tubular steel, cantilevered chairs by Marcel Breuer; cutlery, teapots and adjustable lamps by Marianne Brandt and Wilhelm Wagenfeld; typefaces by Herbert Bayer; pots by Gerhard Marcks; and wall hangings by Gunta Stolzl.

Here you can see more clearly than in any other museum modern art and design both at the moment of their inception and during the early years of their development. Here you can see the modern world being shaped. Most of the exhibits, though they are morethan half a century old, look as though they were made yesterday.

GETTING TO BERLIN: BA (081-897 4000) has a "World Offer" of £139 return from London, to be booked before 18 January and available until the end of March. Fares start at £180. Lufthansa (0345 737747) offers flights from London until the end of March starting at £139 return. Stay must include at least one Saturday night. City break packages to Berlin are widely available. Benz Travel (071-439 4181) offers return flight plus two nights' accommodation in a 4-star hotel for £209 per person. Crysta l Holidays(081-390 9900) provides flight plus two nights' 3-star to 5-star accommodation for £269 to £355.

FINDING THE BAUHAUS: The Bauhaus-Archiv is at Klingelhoferstrasse 14, Berlin. Open daily llam-5pm, but closed on Tuesdays. There is a charge for admission. From the airport, take Airport Bus 9; from Zoo railway station take Bus 9. Buses 16, 24, and 29 from the Kurfurstendamm stop close to the museum. The nearest tube (U-bahn) station is Nollendorfplatz. Car parking available. Frank Whitford