The importance of art depends on what society makes of it. Four pillars of Vienna’s art scene told us how they – a museum director, a curator, a gallerist and an art collector – want to affect and promote artists and their work.
Director of the Leopold Museum
“A museum must not be a graveyard of history.”
Having started as director in September 2015, Hans-Peter Wipplinger oversees a billion euro collection of masterpieces, including Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. “I see my role as…the megaphone for the artists’ ideas,” said Wipplinger passionately. His plans reflect the rebellious nature of its artists. “If you stay static, you are really a museum of the last century. Society today sees a Schiele in another way than 100 years ago.”
The boyish Wipplinger is inspired by a wide range of art, from the icons he saw as a choir boy, to assisting in the Josefstadt Theater. He established his own art agency, Art Phalanx, in 1997, and, following a stint at the New Museum in NYC, he became the director of the Kunsthalle Krems. His 2011 exhibition “Lucas Bosch Gelatin,” contrasting masterpieces by Bosch and Breughel with controversial contemporary artists, was a sensation.
The Leopold is stuffier than Wipplinger is used to, but it has had provocative moments, such as the 2012 “Nude Men” show. “The main focus of this institution is the sensational collection of the art around 1900. But I think it’s important to find the right dialogue with current thinking.”
Through his office window, modern and classical architecture co-exist harmoniously. “Some of the visitors since I started this job…have never been in this building! You have to widen people’s horizons.” Wipplinger, smiled. “It’s not my interest to shock people, I try to give them possible paths to find their own way to the arts.”
“It’s no longer a question that photography is art.”
It was not easy to meet up with the ever-busy Rebekka Reuter. In between writing texts for catalogs, co-hosting the annual ViennaPhotoBookFestival, traveling to meetings at Paris Photo, or entertaining star photographers such as David LaChapelle, she manages a small team to ensure the works of some very well-known photographers end up securely on the walls of both her galleries.
“I like to find a balance between our star photographers, and underestimated artists like Cora Pongracz. Viennese Aktionism was quite a male dominated scene, but women like Cora and Vallie Export were really important to it.” Hailing from Frankfurt, Reuter’s signature upswept bun and infectious laugh are a fixture of the Viennese art world. She studied Applied Cultural Sciences at Lüneburg University, gained curatorial experience at prominent photo collections, such as the Fotomuseum Winterthur and the Folkwang Museum Essen.
Last year’s 2D23D show, co-curated by Martin Guttmann, blended photos with sculptures by Peter Weibel and others. “It’s also important for us to connect the public with Austrian photographers and artists that they might not know but who created powerful and provocative works they should experience in large formats.” Another project close to Reuter’s heart was the solo show with the young talent Anja Manfredi. Whether presenting classical positions like Alexander Rodtschenko, or contemporary artists such as Juergen Teller and Nobuyoshi Araki, she hopes to connect the public with photography through exhibitions that redefine its place in our modern selfie age.
“I want to change people’s fear of going into galleries, to warmly welcome them to engage with art and the questions it raises.”
When I met with Nathalie Halgand at her gallery space in the 4th District by Naschmarkt, I immediately noticed the cot behind her desk chair, and a striking conceptual sculpture by the Belgian artist ROA. Halgand laughs, “Working with ROA can be a bit nerve-wracking. He is very intense, like a philosopher.”
Along with her partner Nicholas Platzer, Halgand opened Inoperable Gallery on a tiny grant in 2008, the city’s first and only focusing on street art. In cooperation with KOR, Inoperable has since produced walls by leading artists such as ETAM and ROA, thereby helping Vienna attract younger visitors with cool public art murals, but also giving street artists the opportunity to cross over into the lucrative contemporary art market.
The Inoperable Gallery has closed, but Galerie Nathalie Halgand opens in early 2016, with exhibitions by the Berlin-based Clemens Behr and Simon Mullan. She will continue to sell street art through the Inoperable website, and to develop contemporary art by street artists. A work like the piece in Nathalie’s office now fetches over €4,000.
Nathalie Halgand, and her life partner Julian Mullan now have a 7-month-old baby girl, Josephine. “In my book Women in Street Art, I asked why women artists get less recognition. It has a lot do with the power of men, and also still with the choice women have to make between career and babies.” Julian Mullan will take paternity leave while Halgand opens the gallery, but already she is learning to balance a phone call with wiggling a toy monkey over the cot rails behind her.
Art collector & founder of NENI art collective
“I want to give a voice to young artists not accepted yet by the institutions, galleries, critics, to give them a chance to show, to let the audience judge.”
Nuriel Molcho founded NENI art collective in 2011. The incentive is supported by the burgeoning NENI food empire, which he and his family have built up.
“As one of four brothers, you learn to share. I believe in Karma, what you send out you get back.” The NENI slogan is “life is beautiful,” or “sababa” in Hebrew.
NENI art collective cooperates with other galleries, and creates popup events in abandoned buildings. “Vienna always has been a big city for art, but still collectors and galleries can be quite conservative, interested in the same art.” Molcho supports new artists like Anna Hugo, Ben Reyer, and Stinkfish. “I would love to have a gallery one day,” he admited. “But now it would take too much time away from our food business.”
Nuriel Molcho’s taste is reflected on the walls of his private apartment, where his own growing collection is displayed. Molcho has adopted the “Life is Beautiful” slogan for himself, seeking to help the next generation of contemporary and street artists shape the “beautiful” of the future.