After the exhibition organized by the graphic firm Israel Ber Neumann, the Great International Fair of the summer of 1920, which marked the end of the Dadaists tour, transformed Berlin into a veritable showcase of international Dadaism. Organized by the three most active members of the Dada Club, 'Marshall' George Grosz, 'Dadasoph' Raoul Hausmann and 'Dadamonteur' John Heartfield, the 'Dada-Messe' took place in the cramped gallery of Doctor Otto Burchard (nicknamed 'Finanzdada'), and seemed revolutionary on many levels.
Wieland Herzfelde, in the catalog’s introduction, recalled the principles: "The only agenda for the Dadaists is to give, temporally and locally, current events as the content of their works. This is why they don’t consider A Thousand and One Nights or Images of India to be the source of their production, but, on the contrary, the illustrations and editorials from newspapers." The event displayed a total reversal of artistic valor. The hierarchy between fine art and applied art were reduced to nothing; performances and even a cooking prize were organized; finally, the catalogue, quite fitting for the exhibition’s iconoclasm, was a single piece of newspaper folded in two. Perhaps most importantly, the Fair revealed the significant contribution of the Berlin Dadaists to collage, photomontage and assemblage – all of which answered the call of Raoul Hausmann and Richard Huelsenbeck for the "introduction of new materials to art." The second room of the gallery was completely taken up by the impressive five-floor architecture by Johannes Baader, the Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama.
'International' indeed, the exposition opposed the idea of artistic patriotism. The 174 works exhibited – among which several prints of Dadaco – revealed its cosmopolitan nature. However, Dada Cologne was only represented by two productions: Erectio sine qua non by Max Ernst and The Venus of Milo by Johannes Baargeld; the Dadaist of Hanover, Kurt Schwitters, "too bourgeois" for Huelsenbeck, was excluded. Nonetheless, even if the exhibition only represented six non-German artists, it was distinctive in that the exhibition included amateur artists like the young Hans Citroen (14 years old), brother of Paul Citroen, and the gymnast Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt.
The exhibition 'Dada Vorfrühling' at the Winter Brasserie in Cologne, was provocative in concept – one had to step over a urinal to enter the room – influenced the revolutionary layout of the Fair. Placed very close to one another, the works produced the effect of chaos, an echo of contemporary urban reality. John Heartfield’s and Rudolf Schlichter’s subversive assemblage The Prussian Archangel was conceived, according to the catalog, as a 'ceiling sculpture', whereas the walls were covered with slogans like "Nieder die Kunst" [= Down with Art] and "Dilettanten, erhebt euch gegen die Kunst" [= Dilettantes, revolt against Art].
"Dada is on the revolutionary proletariat’s side, Dada is political," and "Down with bourgeois morals," protested the posters like an ideological brochure. The Fair was nihilist, communist, anticlerical and anti-bourgeois, including Deutschland, ein Wintermärchen, a satirical representation of the Last Judgment; the portfolio Gott mit uns; and the figure German Prussian minor officer with a pig’s head. Grosz, Heartfield and Schlichter scoffed at the Christian tradition and the militaristic regime. Calling the exhibition a Messe [fair] and the 'works of art' Erzeugnisse [= products], as well as the mention of 'Exhibition and sale of Dadaist works', provided a parody of commercial fairs developing at that time in Germany. In opposing capitalism and denouncing art made for the bourgeoisie, Hausmann imagined the destruction of all the assemblages presented, at the closing of the exhibition. "The Dada movement must lead to the explosion of the art market," he says.
April 21, 1921, the Reichswehr pressed charges against certain participants: the exhibition was considered as an offense against the German army. Nonetheless, this "last Dada hurrah" in Berlin, as Hausmann stated in an interview with Georges Hugnet, resulted in "the beginning of modern art at international scale" [Georges Hugnet, Dictionnaire du Dadaïsme, 1916-1922 (Jean-Claude Simoën : Paris 1976) 124-125].
Sophie Bernard, 'Dada-Messe / International Fair', translated from the French text, published in the catalogue Dada (Editions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 67-68. The translation was part of the Press Pack, published by MNAM Centre Pompidou 2005, p. 61-62 [Courtesy MNAM Centre Pompidou].
Raoul Hausmann und Hannah Höch at the First International Dada Fair Berlin, 1920. [source: Collection Hannah-Höch-Archiv, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin. Photo: Robert Sennecke]
Erste internationale Dada-Messe : Katalog
Kunsthandlung Dr. Otto Burchard
Malik-Verlag, Berlin July 1920
Photolithograph (31 × 39 cm)
Texts by Wieland Herzfelde and Raoul Hausmann.
Wieland Herzfelde 'Zur Einführung', introductory text to the catalogue of the First International Dada Fair (Berlin 1920)
The catalogue can be consulted on the site of the Digital Dada Library [The International Dada Archive]. The German introductory text is translated in English by Brigid Doherty, in October No. 105 (Summer 2003) 93-104 [Stable URL: www.jstor.org/stable/3397683.].
Helene Adkins 'Erste Internationale Dada-Messe', in Stationen der Moderne : die bedeutenden Kunstaustellungen des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland / hrsg. von Michael Bollé und Eva Züchner (Berlinische Galerie : Berlin 1988): 156-183.
Bruce Altshuler 'Dada ist politisch : the first international Dada fair, Berlin, June 30-August 25, 1920', Chapter 6 of Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition : New Art in the 20th Century (Harry N. Abrams : New York 1994).
Bruce Altshuler Salon to Biennial - Exhibitions That Made Art History. Volume I: 18163-1959 (Phaidon Press : London 2008).
Hanne Bergius 'Erste Internationale Dada-Messe (1. Juli - 25. August 1920). Katalog der Ausstellung und ihre Rekonstruktion: Rundgang durch die Messe anhand der Fotografien und Identifizierung der Werke', in Hanne Bergius, Montage und Metamechanik. Dada Berlin - Artistik von Polaritäten (Gebr. Mann Verlag : Berlin 2000): 349-414.
Hanne Bergius 'First International Dada Fair: Saturnalia of Art', in "Dada Triumphs!" Dada Berlin 1917-1923. Artistry of Polarities, Montages-Metmechanics-Manifestations. Crisis and the Arts. The History of Dada, volume 5 (G.K. Hall & Co. : Farmington Hills MI 2003) 231-281. Translated from the German. The German version is published in Hanne Bergius, Montage und Metamechanik. Dada Berlin - Artistik von Polaritäten (Gebr. Mann Verlag : Berlin 2000): 233-303.
Sophie Bernard 'Dada-Messe/Foire Internationale', in Laurent Le Bon (dir.), Dada (Editions du Centre Pompidou : Paris 2005) 322-325.
Marc Dachy 'Lambeaux de corps dans le brouhaha', in Dada et les Dadaïsmes (Gallimard : Paris 1994): 174-186.
Emily Rachel Grey Dada Exhibitions: A Survey and Analysis (University of Maryland 2006). Thesis.
[abstract] Exhibitions are an ideal means by which to approach Dadaism from an international perspective, and to consider how dadaists sought to relate to their audience. This thesis argues that while each was unique in character, Dada exhibitions often functioned similarly; as a demonstration of internationalism, as the realization of a Gesamtkunstwerk, and as a subversion of artistic traditions. Currently, such a comparative approach to Dada exhibitions is limited by uneven scholarship; the Erste Internationale Dada-Messe is the only exhibition to have been studied comprehensively. This disparity is not due to a lack of material evidence, however. For example, the Salon Dada catalogue reveals much about a little studied, large scale, international exhibition no less significant than the Dada-Messe. This thesis establishes the primary importance of exhibitions to the Dada movement, and will serve as the groundwork for future inquiries into Dada influence on subsequent art exhibitions.
Eva Züchner 'Die Erste Internationale Dada-Messe in Berlin. Eine meta-mechanische Liebeserklärung an Tatlins "Maschinenherz"', in Berlin Moskau, 1900-1950 = Moskva Berlin, 1900-1950 / hrsg. von Irina Irina Antonowa und Jörg Merkert (München etc. : Prestel 1995): 118-124.
Although a professional photographer from one of Berlin's most prominent agencies was hired to document the opening, only very few photographs remained. Besides the pictures of Baader's Plasto-Dio-Dada-Drama and the photo with Höch and Hausmann, only 5 others could be traced.
1. Galerie Otto Burchard, Berlin, 30 June-25 August 1920. Right to left, Raoul Hausmann, (seated) Hannah Höch, Otto Burchard, Johannes Baader, Wieland Herzfelde, Mrs Herzfelde, (seated) Otto Schmalhausen, George Grosz and John Heartfield. Hanging from the ceiling is John Heartfield and Rudolf Schlichter's Prussian Archangel. On the back wall George Grosz's painting Germany. A Winter's Tale [Photograph Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin].
2. [source: Hanne Bergius, Montage und Metamechanik (Berlin 2000) 358]
3. (left to right) Hannah Höch, Otto Schmalhausen, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield (holding his son Tom), Dr Otto Burchard, Margarete Herzfelde, George Grosz (pictured on wall), Wieland Herzfelde, Rudolf Schlichter, Mies van der Rohe, unknown, Johannes Baader.
banner: (detail) Raoul Hausmann, 'Mechanischer Kopf' (Der Geist unserer Zeit), 1920 [Collection MNAM Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris].