Exhibition Features More than 400 Decorative Works by Seminal Viennese Designer
Wide Range of Objects Includes Furniture, Jewelry, Ceramics, Fabrics, and Wallpaper
NEW YORK (July 22, 2002)—On October 11, Neue Galerie New York opens its first major loan exhibition devoted to the decorative arts, "Dagobert Peche and the Wiener Werkstätte." This exhibition, which is on view from October 11, 2002, to February 10, 2003, will fill the third-floor galleries. Peche is much less known today than he was in his own time, when he was described by Josef Hoffmann as "Austria's greatest genius in ornamentation since the days of the Baroque."
The exhibition will present more than 400 drawings and objects, including furniture, jewelry, ceramics, fabrics, and wallpaper. Loans from museums and private collections permit a nearly complete overview of Peche's oeuvre. Items that have never been publicly exhibited before or that had been considered lost, such as the cabinet of the Vienna Kunstschau of 1920, are among the show's highlights. The exhibition also places Peche's work in the context of the Wiener Werkstätte, the Austrian design collective that produced extraordinary works throughout its 30-year existence.
"Dagobert Peche was a brilliant and versatile artist, one whose creations rank among the finest works of early twentieth-century Austrian decorative art," said Renée Price, Director of the Neue Galerie. "With this exhibition, Neue Galerie New York brings a new focus, long overdue, to this important and rather enigmatic figure."
“Dagobert Peche and the Wiener Werkstätte” is the first comprehensive one-man exhibition devoted to the designer. Imaginative eclecticism and formal boldness are the hallmarks of Peche's work. His designs are marked by a spirit of whimsy and a capacity for combining contradictory impulses. By devoting an exhibition to Peche, the Neue Galerie seeks to contribute to a wider understanding of Austrian arts and crafts at the beginning of the 20th century, and in particular to give Peche's oeuvre its due within this context.
Dagobert Peche (1887-1923) was born in St. Michael in the province of Salzburg. His first ambition was to become a painter. At his father's behest, however, he studied architecture at the Technical University and subsequently at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna with Friedrich Ohmann. After finishing his studies in 1911 he worked as a designer for the Vereinigte Wiener und Gmunder Keramik, Johann Backhausen & Söhne, and the Wiener Porzellanmanufaktur Böck. During a journey to England in 1910 with the Architects Association he probably became aware of the work of Aubrey Beardsley, whose style of drawing strongly influenced his early works.
During a stay in Paris two years later he became acquainted with contemporary French taste, while at the same time intensifying his study of historic styles. In his work of this period, Peche employed the formal languages of rococo and classicism in a way that made clear their influence yet forged something entirely new and individual. This was made possible by his free, unconventional, and ironic (though never disrespectful) way of incorporating his sources of inspiration, one of which was religious folk art. This purposeful, intelligent, and creative eclecticism was one of Peche's essential qualities.
After being invited by Josef Hoffmann in 1911 to join the Wiener Werkstätte, Peche began designing for its fabric division. From 1915 on he was officially employed as a designer there and strongly influenced the collective's creation of products. His work in all areas of applied art- furniture, jewelry, metal, ceramics, glass, textiles and wallpaper-represents a turning away from the programmatic goal of the Wiener Werkstätte, which was to produce simple objects for everyday use. Peche replaced the rational approach to objects with an emotional one. This redefinition of the concept of function, one that embraces sensuality and feeling as functional values, establishes a link to late 20th-century postmodernism.
Contradiction, playfulness, even irritation-Peche offered all of these as an alternative to purely utilitarian solutions. Garden sculptures made of sheet metal; jewelry boxes in the shape of cardboard pyramids; ceramics that look as though they were made of folded paper-such freedom was a rejection of the idea that the decorative arts should always be practical and conform with the materials from which they are made. Peche developed ideas of interior decoration that owed a great deal to Roman Catholic traditions, and very little to Anglo-American pragmatism. His oeuvre is also informed by the ideal of the gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art.
Peche first showed his designs internationally at the Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914, then later the same year at the International Art Exhibition in Rome. From 1917 to 1919, Peche headed a newly founded branch of the Wiener Werkstätte in Zürich. Removed from the action of war and provided with material and staff, Peche experienced the phase of his greatest productivity. He presented the results at the Vienna Kunstschau in 1920. In the midst of this creative outpouring, Dagobert Peche died in Vienna at the age of 36. Six months later a memorial exhibition for him was held at the Museum of Art and Industry, the precursor of today's MAK.
The exhibition is adapted from Die Überwindung der Utilitat: Dagobert Peche und die Wiener Werkstätte, organized by MAK, Vienna, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Arts. The curator of the exhibition is Dr. Christian Witt-Dörring, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Neue Galerie and Curator for Furniture and Woodwork, MAK, Vienna.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: