Art in Vienna

The Vienna Secession

The Secession is an exhibition space that combines contemporary art with a building whose architecture is an icon of the spirit of impending change around 1900. It was founded in 1897 by a group of artists, led by Gustav Klimt, who had split with the conservative Künstlerhaus. The art magazine Ver Sacrum also played an important role in the secessionist movement; there is a display featuring some of their works in the basement level of the museum. Today, in keeping in line with its motto “To every time its art. To every art its freedom”, the museum hosts an international program that explores current forms of artistic expression in solo and themed exhibitions.

An art nouveau mosaic turtle-footed planter in front of the Secession building.

The highlight of the museum is the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, permanently located in the basement level. The theme of the frieze, which was created in 1902, comes from Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and depicts humankind’s search for happiness. This yearning is eventually shown to be fulfilled by the arts. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures in the room.

One of the temporary exhibits was Spacelength Thought by the German-Italian artist Rosa Barba. In the solo exhibition, Barba presents a selection of films as well as a few sculptural works. Each work is a topographical study of the ‘modern unconscious’ with time playing a central role.

Stellar Populations (2017), a kinetic work by Barba showing a 35mm film strip meandering away inside a light box, driven by a motor.

In the main gallery was The Secession Knot (5.1) by Jean-Luc Mouléne, a solo exhibition consisting of 15 works made from a variety of materials. The main focus is an awareness of the relationship of artwork as a commodity and part of the circulation of goods. A “spatial knot” of timber panels alternately painted black and yellow constitutes the core of Moulène’s display. The convoluted wooden ribbon sprawls over walls, ceilings, and floors, crossing itself a total of five times – this fivefold intersection is referred to by the “5” in the title. The band structures the gallery and divides it into segments with different spatial qualities in which Moulène places objects, most of which were created on the scene. Two of these pieces are shown below:

Spread (2017), a piece consisting of buttons and coffee beans.
La Faucheuse (2015), which consists of a plastic chair and scythe covered in paint.

The last exhibit, located upstairs, was The Visible Spectrum by Anoka Faruqee, an American artist. Her abstract paintings are characterized by pulsating optical and chromatic effects, one of her central aims being to create a tension between the atmospheric impressions of light and illusion and the material nature of color and paint. For viewers, this tension can make the artworks seem rather psychedelic.

One of Faruqee’s works consisting of acrylic on linen on a panel.
The edge of the above work by Faruqee showing different layers of paint.

After finishing up at the Secession, we only had about 45 minutes before we wanted to regroup and head to the Amaluna performance. I chose to use this time exploring the Albertina, another art museum in Vienna, while my mom and aunt ended up getting some coffee at Hotel Sacher.

The Albertina

One of Vienna’s, and the world’s, finest art collections has been housed in the Albertina, a grand Viennese palace in the Neoclassical style, since 1805. The building takes its name from the collection’s founder, Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen (1738-1822), a son-in-law of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (1717-80). In 1919, the newly established Republic of Austria expropriated the Habsburg palace and the art collection it contained to create the museum seen today.

The main artist on display is the Egon Schiele (1890-1918), an Austrian protégé of Klimt’s. His work is noted for its intensity and its raw sexuality, the majority of his pieces focusing on the naked body. Schiele also produced a number of self-portraits, many with his definitive style featuring emaciated, sickly colored figures.

Portrait of the Painter Max Oppenheimer (1910), an expressionist portrait in watercolor and chalk on paper.
Self-Portrait with Peacock Waistcoat (1911), produced with blue chalk, watercolor, gouache, and tempera.

Another exhibition was titled Monet to Picasso, the Batliner Collection and featured a variety of artists. One of these was Paul Signac (1863-1935), a French Neo-Impressionist painter who helped develop the Pointillist style.

The Golden Horn, Mist (1907) by Signac.


As the name of the exhibition suggests, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was also featured. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, the Spaniard is known for co-founding the Cubist movement.

Bust of a Woman after Cranach the Younger (1958) by Picasso.

The last of the big exhibits, located in the basement level, was on the Viennese artist Eduard Angeli (1942-). To mark his 75th birthday, the Albertina decided to show a major retrospective devoted to his oeuvre: around 100 paintings and graphic works trace Angeli’s artistic path from 1967 to the present. All of the works are characterized by clear architectural elements, unusual perspectives, and uncanny lighting. They are also often precisely composed, of minimalist elegance, and posses unmistakable loneliness.

Stopover (1973) by Angeli.



2 thoughts on “Art in Vienna

  1. It’s fun to revisit The Secession museum through your photos and notes. And it’s nice to get an inside view of a bit of the Albertina since Mom and I didn’t see that museum. It must be quite an adjustment for you not to be able to hop on a train and visit another country every week! What a wonderful opportunity you had to be in central Europe for a semester and to experience so many different cities and cultures. I can’t wait to see where you decide to go next!


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