Art from Austria in Venice and Russia

Posted June 5th, 2013 under Austria, Contemporary Art, Festivals

Austria in Venice and Russia
The largest-ever festival of Austrian culture in Russia will run through December 2014.

The festival program includes more than 50 special events ranging from the visual arts to music and theater, and highlighting a diversity of classical and contemporary achievements in Austrian culture, with a special emphasis on the contemporary scene.

“Our goal was to bring talented artists from Russia and Austria into contact with each other,” said Austrian Ambassador to Russia Margot Klestil-Löffler. The event will also include a cycle of lectures, seminars and master classes, along with the opening of Austrian reading salons in Volgograd and Magnitogorsk.

In September 2013 in Murmansk, the first-ever nuclear-powered icebreaker the Lenin will become the setting for a joint exhibition by Austrian and Russian artists, featuring works of painting, photography, installation and video art. In addition, the unique project Beyond Seeing will showcase works from the contemporary art collection of Admont Abbey in Austria and will be accessible to people with visual impairments. The exhibition will open in December 2013 at the Winzavod Contemporary Art Centre under the title “Art Unites the Blind and the Seeing.”

In December 2014, the Moscow Kremlin Museum will open its doors to the exhibition “Treasures of the Esterhazy Family,” featuring art and historical objects from the 16th – 20th centuries that illustrate the history of the Esterhazy family, representing the powerful European aristocracy.

The full program of the Austrian Culture Season in Russia can be found at its official website:

Image above: Hauptgalerie (West) des österreichischen Pavillons, Ausstellungsansicht, XLIV. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, La Biennale di Venezia, Venedig, 1990, mit Arbeiten von Franz West © Archiv Galerie Peter Pakesch, Wien

Austria and the Venice Biennale (1895-2013)
Austria in Venice and Russia 2
Lucio Fontana with Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Yuko Ikewada, Austrian Pavilion, XXXI Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte, Venice, 1962. Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena – Archivio Arte Fondazione.

Parallel to the exhibition in the Austrian Pavilion in Venice (also see below) this year, a landmark publication titled “Austria and the Venice Biennale 1895-2013″ will be launched. This scholarly, 540-page publication presents for the first time a comprehensive overview of each individual exhibition, with the help of previously unpublished photographs, plans and correspondence drawn from public and private archives in many different countries, including the extensive holdings of the Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee (ASAC), Venice.

The list of artists that have represented Austria at the Venice Biennale over the last 120 years includes many of the leading figures of its cultural avant-garde: from Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoschka, through Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Arnulf Rainer and Walter Pichler to Valie Export, Maria Lassnig and Franz West. Its commissioners, given the responsibility of organising their exhibitions, have included individuals such as Josef Hoffmann, Otto Benesch, Hans Hollein, Peter Weibel and Kasper König.

Initiated and edited by this year’s commissioner, Jasper Sharp, the book includes extended essays by historian Philipp Blom and Rainald Franz (MAK), and an extensive illustrated chronology accompanied by short texts by Susanne Neuburger (mumok), Harald Krejci (Österreichische Galerie Belvedere), Antonia Hoerschelmann (Albertina), Günther Holler-Schuster (Neue Galerie, Graz), and Martin Hochleitner (Salzburg Museum).

The book has been designed by leading Austrian graphic designer Martha Stutteregger, and published by Verlag für moderne Kunst in both German and English languages.

Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Mathias Poledna, Imitation of Life, 2013. 35mm color film with optical sound, 3 minutes, 35 mm frame enlargement. Courtesy of the artist; Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna; Galerie Buchholz, Cologne / Berlin; and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles.

For his exhibition in the Austrian Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, artist Mathias Poledna presents a new work titled Imitation of Life.

A 35mm color film roughly three minutes in length, Imitation of Life was produced using the historic, labor-intensive technique of handmade animation and is built around a cartoon character performing a musical number. Its buoyant spirit and visual texture evoke the Golden Era of the American animation industry during the late 1930s and early 1940s. In the preceding years, the time of the Great Depression, the medium had evolved from a crude form of mass spectacle into a visual language of enormous richness and complexity that shaped and continues to resonate in our collective imaginary.

Imitation of Life appropriates and reassembles this language as it revisits the contradictions and ambiguities that accompanied the medium’s development. Advanced methods of production and visual ingenuity—indebted to the syntax of European modernism in its handling of surface, depth and color, and lauded by the avant-garde and critic intelligence of the time—coexisted with sentimental characterization and storytelling based on age-old fables and fairy tales.

Among the most pronounced features of the film is the extreme contrast between the conciseness of its scene, and the extraordinary amount of labor that went into its creation: more than 5,000 handmade sketches, layouts, animation drawings, watercolored backgrounds and ink-rendered animation cells, produced in close cooperation with acclaimed artists from the animation departments of film studios in Los Angeles, most notably Disney. Several small groups of these drawings are presented in the Austrian Pavilion.

The soundtrack, another key element of the production, was recorded with a full orchestra in the style of the period at the Warner Brothers scoring stage in Los Angeles. It combines new original music created specifically for this project with a rearrangement of a popular song from the 1930s written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.

Presented in Venice, Poledna’s installation allows for a complex cross-reading with other episodes from this period: the relationship between European art and American mass culture; European emigration to the United States and American export to Europe; the presentation of animated films produced by the Disney Studios at the first film festivals in Venice; the late modernism of the Austrian Pavilion, and the period from 1938 to 1942 during which the building remained empty while Austrian artists exhibited in the German Pavilion.