Museum Run: Where the new things are

Vienna has long reigned as a centre for fine art and art history.

But in recent years, the city has moved beyond its endless collections of well-known artists.

This winter, contemporary has taken over the art museums.

Baselitz Remix

Someone Paints my Portrait, upside-downBaselitz | Photo: Albertina - Sammlung Batliner

Someone Paints my Portrait, upside-downBaselitz | Photo: Albertina – Sammlung Batliner

German post-modern superstar Georg Baselitz is on display at the Albertina in honour of his 75th birthday, with 120 paintings, drawings and prints from its collection under the title Remix.

The title derives from the 2005/2006 series of the same name, in which the artist revises and reinterprets some of his earlier work.

Since the 1960s, Baselitz has established himself as a key figure of contemporary art, one of his most prominent characteristics being the large-scale upside-down paintings.

One, Someone paints my portrait (2002) is a self-portrait in pink, blue and orange against a neutral background.

In a characteristic balance between strong brushstrokes and details scribbled in black, the figure’s colourful clothes and right arm leap from the background, while his head and left arm blend in, spontaneous rather than real.

Painting a figure upside-down is “the best way to strip what I paint of its contents,” the artist wrote, allowing a focus on the properties of the painting – the canvas or paper, the paint, and the brushstrokes – liberating the work from a direct interpretation of its subject.

Some of Baselitz’s paintings appear at first to portray nothing, to be about shape, colour and texture, before the viewer realizes that there is indeed a figure.

They rest on the fine line between concrete and abstract, for they are both and neither.

Baselitz’s most recent work contrasts with his paintings from the late 1980s and 90s, where both figure and background were opaque, aggressively covering the canvas.

In this series he toys with order and relationship between drawing and painting.

Where traditionally a drawing preceded the painting, here the it’s hard to tell what is what and what came first; the work is punctuated by fluid lines and transparent shapes, more related to watercolour than oils.



1., Albertinaplatz 1,


The Collection #4

“Codified” Hermann J. Painitz’s Section and Chain, (1969) | Photo: Artothek des Bundes

“Codified” Hermann J. Painitz’s Section and Chain, (1969) | Photo: Artothek des Bundes

Two cloud-shaped sculptures, one pink, one blue, confront you as you enter the fourth leg of the The Collection series, the Belvedere’s contemporary archive at the 21er Haus.

A painting on the wall shows a man (possibly the artist, Franz West) sitting between them.

This time, the exhibition encompasses contemporary art in Austria and its international influences: from Lawrence Weiner’s writing on the wall, to Hans Schabus’ photo series, to a “happening” by the art collective gelatin at the World Trade Center, to Josef Dabernig’s Hotel Roccalba, where time passes while characters don’t do much.

Fifty-nine artists make up this exhibition, so you’ll need a few hours. But it’s worth it.

Jonathan Monk shows a group of slides of famous monuments in Vienna, meant to be fastened on a window, where they would eventually fade in the sunlight, leaving the viewer to gaze through an empty frame to the reality outside.

Anna Jermolaewa’s Not Yet Titled combines a series of photos of cats living in the Hermitage museum with text and video to tell their stories.

In residence for more than 200 years, the cats were there kill off a plague of rats. Today they are considered part of the museum staff, little furry co-workers.

All work is 21st century, except for Hermann J. Painitz, whose More than the Sum of its Parts (1997) covers an entire wall with 378 frames of symbols creating his own language.

For the artist, this is not just about the translation, so he leaves it up to the curator whether or not to provide decoding tools. In this case, the visitor can “translate” the work of art.


21er Haus

3., Arsenalstrasse 1, 


and Materials and Money and Crisis

The ever-changing Two Software Greaser by Terry Attkinson | Photo: courtesy of the artist

The ever-changing Two Software Greaser by Terry Attkinson | Photo: courtesy of the artist

In this exhibition, the themes of “Money” and “Crisis” jump from the media to the walls of the mumok.

From fog-filled rooms portraying the power of climate to re-cycled trash on acrylic panels, the mumok presents eleven artists’ takes on today’s defining themes.

Sam Lewitt’s Weak Local Lineaments consist of etchings in Pyralux (copper-clad plastic), a material normally used for circuit boards, here displayed vertically, like curtains.

The material is fragile, as the various light settings reveal new tones and shades, and the copper’s surface shows the effect of time.

Artist Terry Atkinson addressed possession and value in his two sculpture-installations made of wood and axle grease (Grease Flag and Two Software Greaser).

In the latter, he parallels the wooden structure and the hardware, using the “grease as software and imitating a primitive form of ‘mind’.”

The life of the artwork is ever-changing, with the grease susceptible to variations in temperature, turning from solid to liquid and dripping from the T-shaped container onto the surface beneath.

Every time the piece is exhibited, stored or moved, it changes, thus capturing not a moment of change, but change itself.



7., Museumsplatz 1,


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