art exhibition in vienna

Few cities in the world have as vibrant an art scene as Vienna. This is not a new phenomenon either. This historic city has a rich heritage of artistic exploration as well as movements which changed the landscape of creative work in various fields.

It stands to reason then, that the city celebrated its artistic history in a big way every year through exhibitions and similar events. In 2018, the theme chosen for the exhibitions in the city was ‘Beauty and the Abyss’ and it signifies the celebration of Viennese Modernism – an art movement that was prevalent around the beginning of the 20th century.

What makes 2018 the year when this kind of celebration is required is the fact that it is exactly hundred years ago that four of the foremost exponents of Viennese Modernism passed away – Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Koloman Moser and Otto Wagner. 

Viennese Modernism

So, what exactly is Viennese Modernism and what are its main characteristics? This movement began around the first decade of the century and had a dark and erotic feel to it. It is interesting that the works of this time not only made Viennese art into a legend but also designed the look and the feel of the city that is still very tangible.

Klimt is possibly the most prominent figure of all the artists committed to this movement. He was known for his erotic depictions of women in his paintings. But that wasn’t all there was to it. His works vividly depicted the life of elite sections of society who lived in a cosmopolitan style. His paintings explored the psychological aspects of the subjects as well as the outward look.

Schiele was a protégé of Klimt and went further in the radicalism of nude portraits of women. He also changed the way human body was depicted and therefore started a new trend.

Schiele Self-portrait
Egon Schiele, Self-portrait with Physalis (detail), 1912 © Leopold Museum, Wien

Moser wasn’t just an artist but the progenitor of graphic designing. He also worked on the designs of products, interiors and the layout of exhibitions. His influence is seen everywhere from logos for books to stains on window panes. He dabbled in painting also.

Wagner was a revolutionary architect who played a major role in giving Vienna its modern look. His signature style can be seen not just in buildings but also in urban planning, of which also he was an expert.

Events Related To Beauty And The Abyss

The memory of each of these four great artists has been honored this year. The Wien Museum Karlsplatz hosted a major exhibition in March dedicated to Wagner. This was the first such tribute to Wagner in 50 years. Moser’s legacy was celebrated at MAK, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts. 

Klimt Bridge, an edifice erected in 2012 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the artist was recreated at the central stairway of Kunsthistorisches Museum and featured his most prominent work from February to September.

Schiele was celebrated at the Leopold Museum with his works and writings on display while another exhibition titled Egon Schiele – Ways of a Collection would display his works with their history.