Art is always of its time, and the best of it, timeless. From classical portraiture to contemporary installations, visual art recreates life, nature and emotion through the filters of skill and the human imagination.
Art provokes awe, puzzlement, joy and ridicule. The work of one artist rarely resembles that of the next and, along with technological and societal advances, art evolves with us.
In Vienna, it has been the seed of social change. In the 19th century, the conservatism of the Biedermeier age gave way to innovative thinkers, writers, musicians and architects, including wpeople like Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, Gustav Mahler and Adolf Loos.
With them came the Secessionists who saw art not as an isolated form of expression, but as a holistic venture of the mind, a Gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art”. Later in the 20th century, the avant-garde found other ways to disrupt the status quo, as the Vienna Actionists did in 1960s and 70s, the performance artists Hermann Nitsch, Otto Mühl and Valie Export.
In Vienna, art has thrived when it has demanded freedom. Without revolt, it would never have prevailed. 100 years after their inception, the Secessionists’ art is all over town, which is why we’ve devoted our cover story to their work.
From Klimt and Schiele to Kokoschka and other protagonists of the Wiener Moderne, the Secessionist legacy is alive and well, as their courage and liberty of expression continues to inspire us today.
Today, Vienna’s contemporary art world has also been experiencing a renaissance. Just finding your way through the many historical and contemporary art shows, auctions and exhibitions is a challenge, but also extremely rewarding, as you make art your own.
Vienna’s Akademie der bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) has shaped many great creative minds, including Otto Wagner, Egon Schiele, Ernst Fuchs and Gottfried Helnwein, so we looked into what the new generation of artists are creating, and what it takes to get in.
For our Melange interview this month, we spoke to mathematician and physicist turned light installation artist, Waltraut Cooper, who, for decades, has projected her geometric pieces onto grand facades all over the world.
But will these creators be replaced by artificial intelligence? Developers have made great strides in the world of AI and visual art, as we see in Artem Ex Machina.
Don’t miss our review of Fredrick Baker’s virtual reality exhibition bringing viewers into the works of Gustav Klimt. And the breathtakingly beautiful project To Be a Muse, in which photographer Lilya Corneli recreates famous portraits with real life women made up as Muses.
Is your life in Vienna a Gesamtkunstwerk? For inspiration, take a look at our Culture and Food & Drink. If you need to get moving, the heavy snowfall means it’s the perfect time to get in some last-minute skiing at Obergurgl or go bouldering in Vienna’s many indoor climbing clubs.
No matter what you do, stay true to the vision of the Viennese greats: Question the status quo, challenge the norm and, as always,
don’t be a stranger,