Mumok Museum

While following my ongoing studies of the curiosities cabinets in Europe, I have found myself wondering around Vienna. The capital of Austria is famous for its art of the secession period with artists like Gustav Klimt, and later Egon Schiele, and also of course, the majestic collections curated by the Habsburgs centuries ago but that is not all. The city of Vienna is rich with World admired museums, including several dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

Mumok is one of many museums in the Museumsquartier (art district) in central Vienna. Dark grey cubic-like museum building covered in basalt stone was designed and completed in 2001 by Austrian architects Ortner & Ortner. It has got four floors underground mirroring other four floors up on the surface with 4,800 square meters of exhibition space. This museum collection consists of around 10,000 works by modernist and contemporary art including controversial works from Viennese Actionism.

Mumok building from the outside

The display at Mumok is being changed frequently and this time I had a chance to visit two beautiful exhibitions. Recommended by a very helpful museum guide I descended to the subterranean level -4. Here, currently on view is “The Museum as a Flashpoint” – an exhibition celebrating Alfred Schmeller – the second director of Mumok (it was originally founded in 1962, as the Museum of the Twentieth Century)

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"Jeanine", 1973 by Ed Paschke
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"Kaspar Experimented with a Sculpture by Walter Pichler",1968 by Franz Ringel

It is an entirely reconstructed project from the 1970s with corresponding display design which looks very unusual and original. The isles and separating walls were all made of brown carton-like material with colorful finishings reminiscent of children´s playground. However It works great with the displayed art. There are paintings by artists I know and admire and also others, less known globally but very important for the local art history.

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"Psychomodulator", 1968 by Peter Pongratz
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"Double Portrait A.S. and M.J.", 1979 by Wolfgang Herzig

The other major exhibition on view is “Reading Time in Space – Modernism at Mumok 1910 to 1955. It shows some of the most iconic artworks from expressionism to the fifties.

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General view of "Reading Time in Space. Modernism at Mumok 1910 to 1955"

Four separate stage-like spaces include:

  • El Lissitzky’s and Hans Arp’s fictitious exhibition project “The isms of Art” in 1924 (original names was Kunstismen) sorting the existing classification of the time.
  • Friedrich Kiesler’s legendary theater exhibition project originally presented in 1924 when Vienna became the city of the avant-garde.
  • A historically very important “Book of New Artists” by László Moholy-Nagy published in 1922.
  • Hans Tietze’s exhibition “Die Kunst in unserer Zeit” in 1930 linking insights to the modernism while looking back at the years 1910/11. This complex exhibition was proof that abstract and figurative art of that period were not easily categorized.
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"Table with Bird Feet", 1939 by Meret Oppenheim
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"Scarecrow", 1935 by Paul Klee

My overall impression after visiting the Mumok museum in Vienna was that the curators are not afraid of taking risks here. And I do not mean the selection of artworks but absolute absence of simple white walls that are almost always the starting base everywhere else. This choice might not be appreciated by everyone but for me, it was definitely an interesting visit.
For more information, visit the official Mumok website. The museum is open everyday until 7pm but on Thursdays it stays open until even 9pm!

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