A notable art initiative celebrates its fifth anniversary in the Austrian capital.
In a way, the art world is a creative business just like any other – we can think of design, film, theatre, fashion etc. –, at least where it comes to the necessity of joining forces in order to gain visibility and attract a large (and ideally international) audience. Vienna Art Week pays tribute to this fact and presents itself as a colourful gathering of many interesting. This event spans an entire week and is powered by the skills of creative director Robert Punkenhofer and Martin Böhm, who heads the so-called Vienna Art Cluster, an association of the city's most important art institutions. To try and reflect the entire range of Vienna Art Week in so short an article is almost impossible, but if I had to sum up my impressions of the 2009 edition, I'd probably say that this edition was marked by the particular commitment and endeavour of independent curator, art critic and theoretician Ursula Maria Probst. She conducted many interviews that were published in the special publication "meet art", curated an exhibition of public art entitled "Local Strategies Continued" (Shift readers are familiar with the first part of this project) and she put together the very remarkable show "The Centre of Attention".
Marlene Haring, Because Every Hair is Different, 2005-2009, Billboard Poster © Marlene Haring
For "The Centre of Attention", Ursula Maria Probst brought together a total of 20 artists and art combos from Austria and the Central Eastern European region. She thus points out the consequences and special opportunities that result from Austria's geographic position in the heart of Europe. Anyhow, the question this exhibition really wants to raise concerns the social potential of art and its inherent possibilities of depicting reality. The fact that the exhibition is set in a temporary art space which will close again after the end of Vienna Art Week doesn't only quote and refer to a curatorial practice very common in other art capitals (such as Berlin), it also draws attention to the importance of keeping alive the dynamics of art – highlighting it as an ever-changing, unforeseeable, economically precarious domain. Probst works with artists with a relatively young and independent profile, for example Catrin Bolt, Marlene Haring and Russian-born Anna Jermolaewa.
Helmut & Johanna Kandl, Wächterhaus, 2008/09, courtesy of Kunst im oeffentlichen Raum Steiermark
Among the numerous debates and panel discussions which brought together experts from the international art scene and leading figures from Vienna (an exceptional lineup was united at a discussion about "Curatorial practice and the art market", where Matthew Slotover from Frieze Art Fair and Nicolaus Schafhausen from Witte de With were among the participants), I followed an open debate about the potential and importance of art-related memorials with particular interest: the necessity to anchor events from the past in the consciousness of passers-by through the means of public art was vividly discussed by historian Heidemarie Uhl, artists Johanna Kandl and Dorothee Golz, and others. There is maybe not one single conclusion to draw, but there can be no doubt at all about the fact that art is a very adequate tool for the reactivation and visualization of (repressed) memories.
Museum Liaunig in Carinthia, 2007/08, © querkraft – Lisa Rastl
The numerous guided studio visits are always a very welcome and special opportunity to familiarise oneself with an artist's work process from a slightly unconventional angle. Apart from the possibility to meet and talk to Katrina Daschner, collabor.at, querkraft architects and others, the Austrian jewellery designer AND_i was also on the list of this year's studio visits. This was a very good opportunity for lovers of art and cutting-edge design to unite their interests and visit a creative talent of international renown in his studio. Andreas Eberharter, who is the man behind AND_i, successfully collaborated with fashion labels such as Thierry Mugler, and even made it onto a Vogue Uomo cover in 2009.
Andreas Eberharter/AND_i in his studio © Martin Stöbich
Last but not least, Vienna Art Week wasn't only about studio visits, panel discussions and independent temporary art spaces, the biggest art institutions in town also had their say. Big and well-known museums such as Essl Foundation, the Belvedere, or Künstlerhaus also participated in the programme, organising special tours, guided visits or big openings for the occasion.
Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, Monroe, 1996, Courtesy XL Gallery, Moscow © Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe
The impressive show "Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in Eastern European Art" had opened just a few days before the beginning of Vienna Art Week at Vienna's museum of contemporary Art MUMOK. The show stages a comprehensive overview of the evolution of a gender-related discourse in art during the decades preceding the downbreak of the socialist system in Eastern Europe and Russia – and took a particularly interested stance with regard to the goings-on ever since 1989. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin-wall, this show is an interesting attempt at presenting an interested audience with a far-reaching retrospective from a special angle. The exhibition makes a lot of sense in the context of this year's Vienna Art Week, which once again tries to situate the Austrian capital as an important creative hub in the heart of Central Europe.
Vienna Art Week 09
Date: November 16th - 22nd 2009
Place: Vienna, Aurtria