“Herbert Bayer: Bauhaus Master” marks the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, in 1919 and features rare works by the groundbreaking 20th-century graphic designer Herbert Bayer. On view in the second-floor permanent collection galleries from Nov. 16 through April 5, 2020, the exhibition follows Bayer’s role as both student and teacher at the Bauhaus, as well as his illustrious career in the United States following his 1938 emigration.

“As the founding of the Bauhaus is being fêted across the globe this year, this powerful and focused exhibition will draw from Cooper Hewitt’s unique holdings—bolstered by a trove of more than 500 pieces acquired in 2015,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “The exhibition offers new insights and scholarship on this Bauhaus leader who helped shape the discourse of modern graphic design.”

Born in Austria and active in Germany and the U.S., Bayer (1900–1985) helped define a new language of graphic design suited to modern life during his years at the Bauhaus. Charting his stylistic shifts and theoretical contributions, “Herbert Bayer: Bauhaus Master” highlights Bayer’s interest in typography and photography, design theory, information design, fashion and beauty, and poster design as well as his corporate work.

Becoming one of the most influential graphic designers of his time, Bayer applied the school’s theories to commercial practice and promoted its legacy to the public. In addition to contributing to the rational New Typography movement of the 1920s, he created a hyperreal illustration style for use in infographics and advertising. He had an enormous impact on institutions in the U.S., including the Aspen Institute, where he activated the Bauhaus ideal of total design to architecture, landscape and graphics.

“Herbert Bayer: Bauhaus Master” will feature information graphics, books, advertising, posters, ephemera and magazine layouts for diverse clients. Many of the works on view will be drawn from a recent acquisition of more than 500 pieces documenting Bayer’s career in the U.S., made possible through a gift to Cooper Hewitt from the Taub Foundation. Key works from the Bauhaus period are on loan from the collection of Merrill C. Berman.

The exhibition is organized by Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design, Cooper Hewitt.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 210,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3-D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world. Cooper Hewitt knits digital into experiences to enhance ideas, extend reach beyond museum walls and enable greater access, personalization, experimentation and connection. The museum is fully accessible.

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