Spitzweg, Wurm, Avramidis, Hodler, Female Images and more at the Leopold Museum 2017

The Directors of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger and Gabriele Langer hosted a press conference in which they looked back on an active and eventful 2016 and presented the upcoming special exhibitions and cooperation projects scheduled for 2017.

Following the new art fair “Art Vienna”, which the Leopold Museum will be hosting for the first time (23rd to 26th February 2017), the exhibition year at the museum will kick off with an extraordinary juxtaposition. The ironic-humoristic painter Carl Spitzweg (1808–1885), who is commonly associated with the Biedermeier period, will meet Erwin Wurm (born in 1954), the master of an extended concept of sculpture. The exhibition curated by the Leopold Museum’s Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger “Carl Spitzweg – Erwin Wurm. Hilarious! Hilarious?” (25th March to 19th June 2017) is the first presentation in Austria of works by the German artist 130 years after his death. Curator Hans-Peter Wipplinger: “We will not only present the eminent painter and highly gifted draftsman Spitzweg, who created his oeuvre in the cultural-historical atmosphere of the Biedermeier period, but also the socio-critical spirit of Spitzweg, who was a master of analyzing authoritative power relations and social hierarchies, and offered trenchant commentaries on his era with his works”. Both Spitzweg’s and Wurm’s oeuvres are riddled with insinuations and ambiguities, while both artists’ humor is based on scenes from poetry and ostensible idyll. Deploying their critical and reflected humor as a weapon, they expose apparent tranquility, petit bourgeois atmospheres and philistinism for what they are.

The year 2017 will see several comprehensive retrospective exhibitions dedicated to Joannis Avramidis (19th May to 4th September 2017), Anton Kolig (22nd September 2017 to 29th January 2018) and Ferdinand Hodler (13th October 2017 to 22nd January 2018). The oeuvre of the eminent Austrian sculptor Joannis Avramidis (1922–2016) invariably revolved around the human figure, and in his search for an “absolute figure” he oriented himself on Archaic Greece and Greek Classicism, on the early Renaissance and icon painting. “Avramidis’ sublimated sculptures rise above the subjective. Presenting sculptures and drawings by Avramidis, the exhibition intends to convey a sense of the fruitful tension of his oeuvre, with which he sought to objectify forms as much as possible whilst still preserving a high degree of sensuality”, explains Ivan Ristić, who acts as this exhibition’s curator together with Stephanie Damianitsch.

Similarly to the Avramidis exhibition, which is the largest retrospective of the artist’s works to date in Austria, the presentation of works by Anton Kolig (1886–1950) is the first comprehensive solo exhibition dedicated to the artist in over 50 years. Curator Franz Smola: “Kolig is a prominent representative of a dynamic figural painting typical of his time. His works are characterized by a masterly energetic hand and vibrantly luminous colors.”

The retrospective of works by Ferdinand Hodler, meanwhile, affords exciting insights into the oeuvre of the Swiss artist, featuring landscapes, portraits, figure paintings, as well as examples of naturalistic plein air painting, alpine and lake landscapes, all the way to the abstract “paysages planétaires” of his late oeuvre. The exhibition’s curator Hans-Peter Wipplinger: “An exponent of Symbolism and Jugendstil, a pioneer of Expressionism, and not least an innovator of monumental painting, the Swiss painter Hodler was not only a frequent visitor to Vienna but also an important inspiration to numerous artists of Viennese Modernism.”

The exhibition “Female Images” (7th July to 18th September 2017) curated by Birgit Summerauer and Franz Smola shines the spotlight on the extensive collection of the Leopold Museum and features works ranging from the Biedermeier period to Modernity. Portrait depictions, genre paintings, as well as nudes and erotic renderings illustrate the view of women, which for centuries was a predominantly male one, while a separate section of the presentation is dedicated to female depictions created by female artists including Tina Blau, Käthe Kollwitz and Broncia Koller.

From 2017 the museum’s Graphic Cabinet will provide an additional, newly created exhibition space for presentations of the collection, opening with an exhibition on Alfred Kubin (1877–1959) (7th July to 4th September 2017). In his oeuvre, Kubin captured all the important themes of the 20th century, from the effacement of the individual to the individual’s futile search for their place in society. The presentation’s emphasis is on Kubin’s work as a book illustrator who created more than 2,000 illustrations for 250 books. Curator Stefan Kutzenberger: “For the books illustrated by him, Alfred Kubin availed himself of his stock of independently created graphic works, thus creating an open partnership between image and text”. Following on from this idea, select works on paper by Kubin will be used as illustrations for a short story written by Radek Knapp (born in 1964) especially for this exhibition.

The new programmatic direction introduced in 2016 of presenting contemporary art at the Leopold Museum will continue with the exhibition “Traces of Time” (20th October 2017 to 5th February 2018). Featuring contributions by Mladen Bizumic, Cäcilia Brown, Andreas Fogarasi, Sofie Thorsen, Kay Walkowiak and Anita Witek, the presentation focuses on contemporary artistic strategies which, comparable to a specific type of documentarianism, are dedicated to exploring and questioning visual culture. Their emphasis is on the construction of visual aspects in art, photography and architecture, as well as in everyday objects. Curator Stephanie Damianitsch: “The exhibition focuses not merely on works that show photography and film as documentary dispositifs but also includes works that are not limited to the image, but which, based on the idea of documentation as a study of visual culture, extend into the exhibition space and alternate between informative display, architectonic element and autonomous object”.

The Directors of the Leopold Museum expect the number of visitors for 2016 to be around 370,000, matching that of 2015. This means that the Leopold Museum situated in the MuseumsQuartier continues to rank among the 4 most-visited art museums in Austria, after the KHM, the Belvedere and the Albertina. The museum’s popularity is due not only to the special exhibitions and presentations of the collection (Vienna 1900, Egon Schiele) but also to numerous cooperation projects, most notably the collaborations with ImPulsTanz Festival and the Tanzquartier Wien. Championing art being experienced in a multi-discipline manner, the Leopold Museum will continue its cooperation with internationally renowned art festivals and institutions in 2017. The museum will act as cooperation partner for an exhibition produced by the Wiener Festwochen and designed by the curator of the art exhibition documenta 14 Soh Bejeng Ndikung, which the Festwochen’s artistic director Tomas Zierhofer-Kin has hailed “one of the most important and ambitious projects of the Wiener Festwochen 2017”.

The new directors have brought numerous important changes to the Leopold Museum, including a fundamental relaunch of its corporate design. Responsible for the museum’s new visual appearance was the renowned advertiser Christian Satek, who has extensive experience in the cultural sphere.

A milestone in 2016 was the foundation of the Circle of Patrons (CoP) initiated by Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger. Georg Pölzl, the General Manager of the Austrian Post, was secured as the Head of the CoP, a platform for influential personalities from business, science, society, the arts and culture. Thanks to this new network as well as to two fundraising dinners, it has been possible to raise considerable sums in sponsorship.

“In 2016 we were able to raise 350,000 Euros worth of sponsorship, surpassing the sum raised in 2015 (100,000 Euro) multiple times”, explained the museum’s Managing Director Gabriele Langer. While Hans-Peter Wipplinger emphasized that the Leopold Museum continues to be the institution with the highest degree of self-financing, he also mentioned that this year – 15 years after the museum’s foundation – it managed to secure an increase in federal funding, from 3.3 to 4.3. Million. According to Wipplinger, this important increase will allow for urgent improvements in the museum’s infrastructure as well as for scientific investments.

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