With a day to kill in Vienna after doing Vipassana for the first time in northern Austria, I decided to spend my day exploring the galleries of one of Vienna’s many infamous museums, before my flight left that evening. I left Kunshistorisches spellbound and being able to understand why Vienna has the reputation it has. I only wish I had more time to explore the city and more of its museums. I will definitely try to go back..
The building itself is mesmerising and decorated with murals by artists over centuries, including Austrian great: Klimt. His work decorates arches above grand staircases leading to the upper galleries. The positioning is such that to view the work one needs to use binoculars installed on a landing across the work. I noticed other features such as the museum doors of the upper galleries that boasted splendid carvings.
Work by Klimt
Asides from the architecture the two other aspects that left me in awe were: the collection itself, but even more so – the curatorship design.
For me collection gems were the Giuseppe Arcimboldo four seasons painted in 1565. Whoever said Surrealism started with the likes of Dali? I had no idea, but Surrealism was born as early as this, far earlier than the 20th Century..
Other highlights were: three Mantegnas - two characteristically grisaille painted on a marble emulated background; a stunning Titian portrait; Leda and The Swan by Joseph Heintz (I); a lovely Bellini; a portrait of Mary Rose Tudor; two wonderful Canalettos and the beautiful Adam and Eve in Paradise by Lucas Cranach (I).
Mantegna's words in Greek, reads: This work is by Andrea
Portrait by Titian
Portrait of Mary Rose Tudor
Lucas Cranach (I)
The museum also has a splendid collection of antiquities and decorative arts.
Roman copy of Greek original
Crystal objets d'art depicting figures, animals and nature
The technique of inlaid stones that would normally be seen in furniture as in the table above, in this instance is a wall hung art work.
However what impressed me the most about this museum was the curatorship design. The ornate historic space was inventively intermixed with contemporary exhibition design in the form of display installations and lighting that have been designed to match each other. In one space that houses objets d’art, contemporary display cases and lighting fixtures in black metal and glass have been used, in an angular design, and although the black may in some ways be seen as slightly heavy and clashing, I actually found it a delight as I enjoyed the inventiveness and daringness it took to do it. There are few museums that would be courageous enough to do it, and that is what I liked.
In the antiquities space lighting is used in a poetic and atmospheric way simply picking out each sculpture as though they are glowing within the space which was very powerful. The sculptures have been placed with punctuated rhythm throughout the space. A series of ancient heads and busts are displayed on cylindrical stone and metallic plinths which also creates a harmonious contrast between old and new.