Contemporary Vienna

The capital of Austria comes to life at the beginning of fall with two simultaneous events dedicated to contemporary art, the Parallel Vienna show and the viennacontemporary international art fair. In fact, September brought to Vienna show openings in all of the important museums, a true marathon for art lovers. Alongside these new shows, we also have the curatorial proposals of the summer, like at Albertina Contemporary.

I’ve patiently roamed the numerous rooms of the abandoned postal building (Alte Post), in Dominikanerbastei, Innenstadt district for hours. The idea of investing old industrial or commercial buildings that are out of the urban circuit with a cultural asset brings about an interesting frame, where the artist’s proposal has a more familiar, human feel to it, as it was the case for the space curated by Ioana Ciocan, dedicated to four artistic discourses.

Ana Bănică, Giulia Creţulescu, Daniela Gaie and Alina Marinescu have uncomfortable approaches, that pull the viewer out of the comfort zone. “Retelling Love” interrogates, investigates and disturbs the visitors. The city has been the host of an introspection on the couple life as seen by the artists, drawn directly on the faience of the old kitchen turned exhibition space. Perhaps the unusual material, of an uncertain white, gives the story written on the wall a sense of authenticity. We feel transported to our own homes, and the questions that arise are that much more stringent: are those our stories on the loose plaques? A melancholic autumnal sun offers a hint of doubt and perplexity: how can the artists’ rough stories coexist with the beauty of an Indian summer?

The feeling accentuates as the viewer crosses the room, especially since the following artistic discourses advance to an area where femininity is under the mark of suffering. “Abuse me” and “Do it anyway” are two of the many phrases that cover the sectioned torso of a modern Venus that is crucified under masculine affection and indifference. The 3D geometrical shapes o the exhibition background remind one of the bronze model of old town: a Saint Stefan cathedral projected on the track of a 21st century that is too preoccupied with precise, short directions that seem to be brutally taken out of gear as opposed to the speed with which we busy ourselves with the everyday.

In-between three artists who are visibly preoccupied with the expression of their stories, the dotted, interrupted lines of curbed hesitations, convex and intersecting bring about, in a surprising way, peace of mind (could it be the storm’s eye ready to blow?) and the accepting of reality, but without turning their symbolic routes into submission when faced with the inevitable; instead they are as a promise for some rapid, unexpected changes that mediate the decision of the moment with the desire to communicate, to relate, to meet the person you love. Love is not a easy affliction to reiterate for none of the artists. It is an animated presence, representing the world at its simplest, its most essential to be more precise; this is why it is difficult to contemplate indifferently and to serenely accept the turmoil of shared experiences and feelings without any doubts or holding back.

The show “Simularcrum” by Liviu Bulea was put forward by KulturKontakt Austria. Simularcrum is a visual research on the relationship between people, the objects and the places where objects are produced and sold. The brand, the way it is manufactured and the way goods are used are the central themes of this project. Liviu Bulea was part of the 2016 artist residency program by The Austrian Federal Chancellery in collaboration with KulturKontakt Austria, as one of the 50 selected participants of Artist-in-Residence 2016.

The Parallel Vienna show was scheduled between the 21st and the 29th of September, and the 22nd saw the opening of viennacontemporary, a contemporary art fair that promotes participants from Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Eastward Prospectus, Jecza Gallery and Ivan Gallery presented the stands dedicated to Romanian artists in ample, classical spaces that were meant to facilitate the meeting between the visitors and the artists.

Eastwards Prospectus exhibited works by artist Mircea Stănescu regrouped under the title “Piece of time”. He is developing his narrative / sketches, photography, text; the creative process of time / marked, suspended, condensed / he rebuilds a coherent ensemble. Mircea Stănescu uses a “real time” / Jane Birkin, Sofia Coppola, Helmut Newton  / a “travel time” / a Louis Vuitton 2015 diary / a “sensorial time” / the mystery surrounding the hotel room at Château d‘Amboise or Château Marmont [1]. He positions existentialism in time and turns elegance into an attitude. The synchronous images of the light, the day and the lace explain Mircea Stănescu’s position, as the curator Livia Dan explains. The artist saw this creative process as a premonition of transitoriness, something typical for any debut: “As any score of time, it abruptly begins, unforeseen and hesitant, engaging the risks of any new beginning, even implying precarity. These wanderings in time, up-down, that involve at once signs, words, phrases and images, this involuntary gymnastic of the mind has its own risks, empathy, fastidiousness and consequences. ” (M. Stănescu).

Ivan Gallery presented two installations by artist Ştefan Sava; they represent two projects that are tightly linked to his interest for archiving documents and images that he reactivates in an artistic way, all the while conducting and investigation on the status of the image, especially the photographic image. The first project, with no title, regroups portraits of women (negatives and printed photos) and starts with a found archive, comprised of studio photos. This archive belonged to Mathilda Ross, a German photographer from Hamburg. The photographs were taken during 1945-1946. The second installation called “Can You Interpret This Picture?” is a collection made by Ştefan Sava himself, based on aerial photography. This type emerged and is inextricably linked to war time. Ştefan Sava mixes videos, performances and objects with his photos after a long process of research and reflection. He is especially interested in recent history and the way in which history can be visually reactivated in an analytical perspective.

For their second showcased artist in Vienna, Bartha Sandor, the gallery chose paintings from 2009-2010; these are rare examples of his works, since he does not use this method of expression any longer, but rather focuses more on multi-media projects, installations and photography. Ivan Gallery did also exhibit a series of new installations called “Trinkets”, made up of banal, recycled, reinterpreted objects. By using intelligent strategies and an ironic tone, the artist’s messages talk about the national and international present situation.

The artist Cristina David was, surprisingly, present with a sketch called “Entrance ticket to Cosmos”; she mostly works with other mediums, using test, photography and videos as means of expression and documentation of a personal vision of the world, of herself and the passing of time. The sketch is a recent experiment in her artistic career and it is a special kind of sketch that reproduces tickets, receipts and other meaningful “souvenirs” for her personal and artistic life, with her most recent works coagulated in “The diary” conceived during her residency at the Meet Factory in Prague in 2016.

418Gallery showcased works by Romul Nuţiu and Ştefan Petrică at the viennacontemporary art fair. Romul Nuţiu from Timişoara said that during his life he was an experimentalist in everything he painted or thought. The art critic Ruxandra Demetrescu talks about “his enormous creative power” as well as the fact the he would often be confronted with the abstract, there is a stubborn abstraction in his painting. Ştefan Petrică took part in numerous exhibitions in Bucharest, Rome (IT), Hamburg (GE), Klangenfurt (AU); he lives and works in Timişoara. The artist works instinctively; Soulages was one of the painters he considered as his teacher. Petrică discovers the abstract as a natural necessity, something latent even in his early canvases. The artistic perspectives and his means of expression chosen to materialize and document his own feelings, sensations and experiences always return as if it were a cycle to some common questions: love, time, passing through / the access to memory. Without purposely approaching such related themes, his aesthetic discourse focuses on transience, fragility and the beauty of human existence.

September went on with other large scale European events like Vienna Design Week that closed on October 9th. This event is the largest in Austria and included exhibitions, installations and guided tours.

Parallel Vienna took place between 21st-25th of September 2016, and viennacontemporary between 22nd-25th of September 2016.

Thank you to the galleries and the artists represented, and special thanks to Răzvan Babiceanu, Dianei Ursan, Danielei Gaie and Ecaterina Dinulescu for the materials, the presentations and the photos they put forward for this article.

[1] Château Marmont is a hotel situated on 8221 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. The hotel was designed by renowned architect William Douglas Lee and it was inspired by Château d’Amboise de pe Loire, the favorite residence of French royalty. It was opened to the public in 1929 and it quickly became the favorite place for Hollywood stars and their parties.


Andreea Grecu

Andreea Grecu is a cultural manager and lecturer. Between 1999-2004, then from 2009 onward, she is active on the NGO scene, as member of cultural associations and professional unions in domanis such a...

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