Leopold Museum: Recognition for the sculptor Joannis Avramidis and opening of Wiener Festwochen exhibition
Opening of comprehensive retrospective dedicated to the “great loner” in conjunction with the Festwochen exhibition “The Conundrum of Imagination”
On Thursday, 18th May 2017, the Leopold Museum took center stage at the MuseumsQuartier’s big summer opening, during which the MQ offered visitors free admission to its museums. Hundreds of guests took this opportunity to attend the opening of the most comprehensive exhibition to date dedicated to the work of the Austrian-Greek artist Joannis Avramidis (1922–2016), who would have celebrated his 95th birthday this year.
The Director of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger had personally invited Joannis Avramidis to design a retrospective exhibition for the Leopold Museum. A year after the sculptor’s death, his oeuvre, with which he sought to objectify forms as much as possible while at the same time achieving a high degree of sensuality, will now be showcased in the most comprehensive exhibition of his work to date in Austria from 19th May to 4th September.
Hans-Peter Wipplinger: “This most comprehensive monographic presentation of the sculptor Joannis Avramidis’ oeuvre to date affords long overdue recognition to this great loner of 20th century Austrian art history.”
Heads, figures, trees, band figures and multi-figural monumental sculptures: the approximately 100 objects from all periods of the artist’s oeuvre, which have been divided into four thematic sections, afford a comprehensive overview of Joannis Avramidis’ work, in which he invariably focused on man as the measure of all things. The high degree of abstraction inherent in his sculptures resulted from his search for a universal, timeless design vocabulary, while honoring self-imposed construction principles which are evident especially in his drawings. The creative ethos of the artist, who emphatically invoked his Greek roots, was informed by Antiquity and the Early Renaissance. This heritage, along with powerful nature studies, constituted the artist’s primary source of inspiration as well as his guideline in his aspirations of executing the “absolute figure”.
Joannis Avramidis: “My work demonstrates the execution of an objective, that is to say, of a perfectly graspable form. This form is the primary prerequisite for creating a work of art. In this I try to remove any personal stylistic influences from my work. The only real references in my work are to Antiquity and Early Italian Renaissance.”
The artist, who was born in 1922 to Pontic Greek parents in the Georgian city of Batumi, which was at the time part of the USSR, was profoundly affected by his experiences of flight and emigration. Following the murder of his father, who was persecuted by the Stalin regime, Avramidis and his family had to flee to Greece. Deported by Nazi-Germans as a forced laborer to Vienna, he was suspected of being a spy by the Soviets on account of his knowledge of the Russian language and was interned in Budapest, from where he managed to escape back to Austria. This forced uprooting fostered a strong connection between the artist and the cultural heritage of his homeland, with Avramidis deliberately referring to himself as a “Hellene”.
Exhibition curator Ivan Ristić: “Previous explorations of Joannis Avramidis’ work have all centered on Hellenism, and for good reason. A lesser emphasis has up to now been placed on the feeling of foreignness itself, however. In the case of Joannis Avramidis, the inexorable demand for objectivity of Classical proportion theories was perhaps a means of remaining above temporal and spatial correlations while at the same time honoring a heritage which he could call his own.”
Apart from this clear reference to the Greek-Classical heritage of ideas and forms, Avramidis’ monumental sculptures– for instance his work Polis or his designs for a round temple – illustrate especially clearly that his art was less informed by cool calculations than by a deeply humane attitude.
Stephanie Damianitsch: “From the mid-1960s onwards, Joannis Avramidis explored visionary concepts of sculpture which go beyond the depiction of individual figures and address the idea of cohabitation. Based on his sculptural methods, Avramidis embarked on a path towards architecture as a utopian concept of human community with these works.”
Ahead of the exhibition opening and in cooperation with Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier, the more than 13-meter-high Column of Humanity, which was designed by Avramidis as part of an unrealized temple project, was erected in the main square of the MQ. This presentation marks the fulfilment of a life-long dream of the artist’s, which could now be realized posthumously, much to the delight of Julia Frank-Avramidis, the artist’s daughter and renowned expert of his work. She supported the exhibition project curated by Stephanie Damianitsch and Ivan Ristić by virtue of her years-long experience in the reappraisal of her father’s oeuvre.
Also opening at the Leopold Museum was the Wiener Festwochen’s 2017 exhibition entitled “The Conundrum of Imagination. On the Paradigm of Exploration and Discovery”. The presentation is shown from 19th May to 18th June at the Leopold Museum and the Performeum (10th district, Laxenburger Str. 2a). “The Conundrum of Imagination” is an exhibition project which questions the European age of discovery by focusing on the “3 Gs” which form the basis for such explorations: Gold, God and Glory. Spectacular installations by artists from Africa, Asia, America and Europe, as well as lectures and performances, invite visitors to explore the age of discovery, from its beginnings to the present, from Colonial times to the era of the Internet Explorer.
The exhibition openings provided an ideal framework for fruitful exchanges between museum visitors, invited guests, artists as well as celebrities from culture and business. Among the guests were the artistic director of the Wiener Festwochen Tomas Zierhofer-Kin and Festwochen CEO Wolfgang Wais, the Directors of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger and Gabriele Langer, Elisabeth Leopold, Gerda, Diethard and Waltraud Leopold, Werner Muhm of the board of directors of the Leopold Museum, the curators of the Avramidis exhibition Stephanie Damianitsch and Ivan Ristić, the German ambassador Johannes Haindl, the team of curators of the “Conundrum” exhibition Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and Pauline Doutreluigne, Julia Frank-Avramidis, Clemens Kaletsch, the artists contributing to the “Conundrum” exhibition Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Filipa César, Marco Montiel-Soto, Viron Erol Vert, Mathieu Kleyebe-Abonnenc and Ho Rui An, the director of the MQ Christian Strasser, the artistic director of ImPulsTanz festival Karl Regensburger, the gallery owners Christa Zetter and Katharina Zetter-Karner, Georg Kargl, Hubert Lendl, Florian Sundheimer, Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Ernst Hilger, Richard Ruberl and Wolfgang Bauer, the gallery owner and im Kinsky CEO Michael Kovacek, Charlotte Kreuzmayr, the artists Rudolf Goessl, Martha Jungwirth, Jürgen and Monika Messensee, Roland Kollnitz, Judith Fegerl, Hans Kupelwieser, Franz Graf, Hubert Schmalix, Martin Schnur, Walter Vopava and Katrin Schroeren, Alois Mosbacher and Frenzi Ringling, Jun Yang, Michael Hammerschmid, Lisa Rastl and Lorenz Estermann, Olga Okunev (BKA), art historian and Avramidis expert Michael Semff, the CEO of Artcurial Austria Caroline Messensee accompanied by the artist Laurent Ajina, the art historian Tobias Natter, the CEO of im Kinsky RA Dr. Ernst Ploil, as well as the architect Prof. Boris Podrecca. Also in attendance were the art collector Michael Klaar, the director general of the MAK Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, curator Robert Fleck, Markus Kristan (Albertina), the head of Sozialbau Josef Ostermayer, Julia Neuhaus, the director of the Paintings Gallery of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, the author Maria Rennhofer, the architects Carl Pruscha and Dimitris Manikas, the director general of Porr Karl-Heinz Strauss, the CEO of the Dorotheum Martin Böhm, the CEO of Ressler Kunstauktionen Otto Hans Ressler, Michael P. Franz (BKA), the art advisor to the Austrian president Meinhard Rauchensteiner, Walter Heun (Tanzquartier Wien), Joachim Kapuy (ImPulsTanz), Georg Mahr and Katharina Bazil-Mahr, Christoph Leon, RA Andreas Nödl, and many others.
For pictures of the opening night visit this link: http://www.apa-fotoservice.at/galerie/9292/