Tag Archives: CEE

Art Now in CEE

Vienna News

Vienna is fast becoming not only a popular holiday destination for tourists from Eastern Europe but also the place where Eastern European artists in need of a gateway to the platform in the larger art market gather. This year’s edition of Viennafair, self-acclaimed as the international contemporary art fair focused on the CEE, boasted a nearly 19% increase in attendance compared to the previous year. Only a few months later, when the Venice Biennale lifted its curtain for its 52nd edition in June, the Hungarian Pavilion surprised the visitors by presenting Andreas Fogarasi as its representing artist, a young Austrian artist born in Vienna to Hungarian parents.

Once again Vienna sees itself as the metropolis of new art from Central and Eastern Europe. As a welcome gesture to Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU this year, the Vienna city government invited Bulgarian curator Iara Boubnova to archive the inventories of Vienna’s contemporary art collection and to organize the inaugural exhibition “Long Time No See”(20 June-30 August) to mark the opening of the new MUSA, or Museum auf Abruf (Museum on the Demand) at a stone’s throw of Rathaus, the capital’s city hall.

Despite the concerns by some theorists such as Slovenian Marina Gržinić, who sees the Eastern European art scene being ‘branded’ often under the name of Balkan art, the legendary Harald Szeemann, even before having curated his large-scale survey on the contemporary Balkan art scene titled Blood & Honey at Essl Collection back in 2003, had worked with artists such as Marina Abramovich and Braco Dimitrijević early on in the 1970s in the Documenta. Vienna Künstlerhaus recently staged the International Print Triennial Krakow-Oldenburg-Wien 2007, an international joint effort to rediscover the spirit of Polish tradition of graphic art in times of the digital trends.

Artists hailing from behind the former Iron Curtain are coming into renewed attention. Galerie Ernst Hilger has been fine-tuning on the taste of the wealthiest visitors and art buyers in Vienna – Russians – with its recent show SPUTNIK (30 August-27 September) and Esterházy Palace showed off its ambition in contemporary art collecting with the Central Europe Revisited I (16 July-16 September) show.

Adela Demetja, 『Untitled』 from “VirtuAlbania” at Steirischer Herbst + Pavelhaus, 2006. Courtesy: Pavelhaus, Steiermark.

The subjects of burdens and traumas from the post-communist past are still the mainstay dealt with by artists from the former Eastern bloc, as seen, for instance, in the work by Sanja Ivekovic in Shooting Back (until 28 October, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary). But younger artists are shifting their outlook towards the contemporary condition, seen for instance at “VirtuAlbania”, part of the annual Steirischer Herbst festival (Graz, 20 September-14 October) and “RE:PLACE” (Siemens_artLab, 4 October-10 November), which is presenting young artists from Bratislava commenting on the ‘twin cities’ – Vienna and Bratislava – and their common, and not always untroubled history re-seen in the contemporary context.

Istanbul Now, Galerie Lukas Feichtner, 14 September-10 November
HYPERLINK “http://www.feichtnergallery.com/”http://www.feichtnergallery.com/
The Gallery mounted a show dedicated to the topic of the latest art scene in Istanbul. The exhibition presents 21 artists offering unique visual commentaries on the state of the nation’s capital.

Drago Persic Solo Exhibition, Engholm Engelhorn Galerie, 9 November-22 December http://www.engholmengelhorn.com/Freshly graduated from the Academy of the Fine Arts in Vienna, the young artist Drago Persic, born in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina and currently working in Vienna has his first solo show.

*This article originally appeared in the Contemporary magazine issue no. 95 in 2008.

East, West, Vienna

Vienna News

A view from the 『Belgrade Art Inc.: Moments of Change』 exhibition at Secession. 2004. Photo: Pez Hejduk Courtesy: Secession, Vienna.

Since centuries Vienna has been the melting pot of mid-European culture. Although Habsburg Austria could be defined as a forerunner of globalization until the outbreak of WW1, contemporary Austria still has to come to grips with the legacy of its Eastern neighbors. Bordering on 5 of the 10 new Eastern EU member nations, the country has traditionally been containing a significant number of minorities from those regions.

Being avant-garde by thinking on old links, Leopold Museum mounted its first survey exhibition on Polish Modernism of the interwar Europe two years ago. This year’s edition of Kunst Wien (held 7-10th of October at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna), the annual national-scale art fair which turned international this year for the first time, announced to the surprise of Viennese, that of 43 foreign exhibited galleries, more than 30 were participants from Eastern Europe. While the attention in this fair was mostly drawn to already internationally-recognized names with high price tags such as Franz West, Arnulf Rainer, Elke Krystufek, and Valie Export, it was less well known that quite a few up and coming Austrians artists such as Milica Tomic are originally from former Yugoslavia.

At Wiener Kuenstlerhaus, The New Ten is on view (until 16 January). Works by 20 younger artists selected from the new EU member countries are mirroring on the socio-political environment of the nations in question. Such an approach is not a new idea. Blood and Honey: Future is in Balkan, shown already in the summer of 2003 at Sammlung Essl, covered the most recent  arts scene of the Balkan nations. This Harald Szeemann-trademarked exhibition included more than 70 young and mid-career artists eager to hop on the bandwagon of the Western art market. Mr Karlheinz Essl himself, the founder of Essl Collection and owner of an Austrian DIY and housing supply retail chain dominating the Eastern European market, has been conducting his own talent-search missions in the Eastern European and Balkan regions since several years.

More recently, if not more timely, the Belgrade Art Inc.: Moments of Change show at Secession and the smaller but cleverer Free Entrance: Art from Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, and Vienna show at BAWAG Foundation this summer bore witness to many refreshing talents from the former Eastern Bloc which are not only fully keeping pace with the latest media language and technology but also excelling in witty and satirical commentaries. After this phase of artistic exploration of common themes old and new, artists from both sides of the former iron curtain will set the tone for a Europe which will hopefully never stop to explore itself.

The New Europe: Culture of Mixing and Politics of Representation, Generali Foundation in Wien, from 20 January until 24 April,  HYPERLINK “http://foundation.generali.at” http://foundation.generali.at. Yet another show on the arts of Eastern Europe, this time curated by two Romanian-born guest curators. The show proposes to be a platform for examining and redefining the identity of old ‘New Europe’, as it struggles to overcome the East-West conflict resulting from socio-cultural differences.

Bettina Rheims: A Retrospective, Kunsthaus Wien, until 24 April,  HYPERLINK “http://kunsthauswien.com” http://kunsthauswien.com. For those who were fascinated with the glamour and decadence of the roaring 1920s depicted in Tamara de Lempicka exhibition past winter, this will be the photographic parallel.

Nordic Dawn:Modernism’s Awakening in Finland 1890-1920, Austrian National Gallery Belvedere,  from15 June until 2 October. An excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of the extensive quantity of works of modern art during the Turn-of-the-Century Finnish Modern era which was esteemed by Viennese modernists yet virtually unknown to the public to date.

* This article originally appeared in the Contemporary magazine issue no. 73 in 2005.