Alexandre Wollner, born in 1928 in São Paulo, is one of the most important and successful graphic designers of the second half of the 20th Century. He played a prominent role in the artistic, cultural and economic foundation of the modern Brazilian design and still has an enormous impact on the design scene in Brazil. In South America Wollner enjoys high popularity, but his work has still to be discovered outside this continent.

The present exhibition in Frankfurt/Main – which is accompanied by an extensive publication – provides around 120 works of the designer. The overview focuses on the strong influence of the Ulm School of Design (HfG. Hochschule für Gestaltung), where Wollner was staying 1954-1958, and of European culture on the Brazilian Wollner.

Alexandre Wollner’s design activities – at first as a painter – got underway with the concept of Concrete Art introduced in 1924 by Theo van Doesburg. The latter called for the construction of artworks exclusively from geometric elements, flat surfaces and colors, free of all symbolism and meaning. The European avant-garde – to which the Brazilian public had been introduced at the first biennial in 1951 – exerted a strong and lasting influence on Wollner. Particularly his encounter with the industrial graphics by Max Bill of Switzerland, who received a prize at the first São Paulo biennial for his sculpture «Tripartite Unity», was a key moment for Wollner. He discovered that industrial graphic design was exactly what he wanted to do. Wollner’s poster for the third art biennial of São Paulo marks the point at which he turned from painting to design.

In 1953, Alexandre Wollner was chosen by Max Bill to be among the first students to study at the newly founded Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm. From 1954 to 1958 he received a radical education in design there that would decisively shape his development as a designer. The legendary HfG Ulm had been founded with the intention of continuing the Bauhaus tradition after the Second World War, and in the 1950s and 1960s was among the world’s most progressive educational institutions in the area of design.

After returning to Brazil in 1958, Wollner – along with Geraldo de Barros, Ruben Martins and Walter Macedo – founded the first modern design agency in Brazil: «forminform», based in São Paulo, and four years later his own agency, «DICV Designo». The conditions were ideal for such ventures: late 1950s and early 1960s Brazil was imbued with a spirit of new departure. Within a very brief span of time it had transformed from an agricultural to an aspiring industrial nation and was in search of a new identity. For many years, Wollner accompanied Brazil’s advancing industrialization and, in his capacity as designer, gave countless important Brazilian enterprises their visual identities. Many of his logos and corporate images helped to shape the appearance of the New Brazil and were in use for decades, some even to this day.

Concurrently with his practical work as a designer, Wollner also devoted himself to design education. In 1963 he was one of the founders of the first design academy in Brazil and all of South America: the Escola superior de desenho (ESDI), which was to introduce the Ulm model in Rio de Janeiro.

The retrospective exhibition «alex wollner brasil. design visual» contains a comprehensive presentation of the Wollneresque design universe. Alexandre Wollner – meanwhile eighty-five years of age – participated in planning the exhibition and the accompanying publication, in which he gives in several essays a personal and fascinating insight into his work.

Museum Angewandte Kunst
Frankfurt am Main 60594 Deutschland
Ph. + 49 69 212 34037

Opening hours
Tuesday, Thursday - Sunday
From 10am to 5pm
Wednesday from 10am to 9pm

Related images

  1. Alexandre Wollner, Sucorrico, Fruchtsaftindustrie,1972
  2. Alexandre Wollner, Coqueiro Sardinen, 1958
  3. Alexandre Wollner, Fenícia, Handelsunternehmen, 1975
  4. Alexandre Wollner, Petróleo Tankstellen São Paulo,1986-1996
  5. Alexandre Wollner, Gustavo Halbreich, Baugesellschaft,1974
  6. Alexandre Wollner, ohne Titel, 1953