Klimt in the crossfire

The controversies around one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings are now documented at a Viennese museum.

The exhibit – currently on display at the Austrian Theatre Museum (Österreichische Theatermuseum, http://www.theatermuseum.at) – reflects the public feud which “Nuda Veritas” sparked in 1899 and the following years.

Hermann Bahr, an Austrian writer who purchased the painting, decided to garner the various newspaper and magazine articles published regarding “Nuda Veritas”, a picture which shows a woman in full-frontal nudity. His release bears the same name as the exhibition: “Gegen Klimt” (Against Klimt) and is still seen as essential when it comes to analysing the fin de siècle.

The collection of vilifying statements exposes the motives of many opponents of the artist and his associates as an explosive concoction of envy, unfounded conservatism and a strict dislike of the artist’s output.

Book look: An artful rebel, imperial secrets and football fascination

Andre Heller is one of the most-respected and best-known contemporary Austrian artists. Heller once co-founded a circus, sang chansons and excelled in singing chansons and songs in which he hit out at society and politics. He engaged in writing, stage performance and organising large-scale events. To mark his 65th birthday, Christian Seiler wrote a biography which Heller authorised. The former profil  editor’s book features information about Heller’s TV documentary “Im toten Winkel” about Traudl Junge, the last secretary of Third Reich dictator Adolf Hitler. “Feuerkopf” also offers an analysis of Heller’s political engagement for ex-Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer who had a rather doomed two-year spell in office. The co-author of immensely successful biographies of Olympic ski-jumping champion Toni Innauer and Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm also writes about Heller’s fight against xenophobia and right-wing tendencies in Austria.

Andre Heller. Feuerkopf. Die Biografie.
By Christian Seiler
Published by C. Bertelsmann (www.cbertelsmann.de)

In her new book, historian Sigrid-Maria Größing – an expert on the Habsburg Family – offers an interesting insight into the daily life of Europe’s aristocracy of former times. “Als die Sonne nicht unterging” features 41 chapters which are all packed with amusing anecdotes about Prussian princesses and selfish parvenus in Paris and Vienna and other capitals of might and culture. However, some of the stories have a somewhat more serious tone since they portray emperors’ rather tragic destinies. Größing – who previously released “Um Macht und Glück” and “Die Genies im Hause Habsburg” among other publications – once more proved to be among the best when it comes to dissolving the vast number of mysteries which overspread over formerly ruling dynasties.

Als die Sonne nicht unterging
By Sigrid-Maria Größing
Published by Amalthea (www.amalthea.at)

Thrilling matches, colourfully choreographies and smooth procedures all-round – when football fans across the continent look back on this summer’s tournament, they do so with fond memories. A new book on the competition – in which Vicente del Bosque’s Spanish squad managed to defend their title – has now been released. Publishing house Verlag Die Werkstatt’s “Euro2012 – Das Turnier” features a great number of superb photographs of the stars of the tournament in action. The book also contains images of the fans sporting the colours of their favourite teams. Furthermore, it features excellent articles about the team managers’ different strategies and a business report on infrastructure issues. Another important part of the book on the event – in which the cooperating host nations, Poland and Ukraine, did much worse on the pitch than in organising it – is its detailed statistics section. This concoction of photos of top players such as Italy’s Mario Balotelli, facts and figures and articles makes “Euro2012 – Das Turnier” a must-buy for footie enthusiasts.

Euro2012 – Das Turnier
By Detlef Vetten
Published by Verlag Die Werkstatt (www.werkstatt-verlag.de)

Book look: Cold War, a city back on track and aerial warfare aftermath

“Berlin 1961” documents the dramatic occurrences in global politics in the year 1961 when many observers feared that a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union was imminent. Author Frederick Kempe – the head of the Atlantic Council, a renowned think tank based in Washington, D.C. – portrays the key decision-makers of that time such as late German President Konrad Adenauer and Walter Ulbricht who headed the Council of State of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) at that time. The individual destinies of people trying to make it into West Germany after the East German regime erected are an important part of the book – as is the meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna.

Berlin 1961
By Frederick Kempe
Published by Siedler (www.siedler-verlag.de)

Describing Detroit’s reputation as mediocre would be a fatal and careless understatement. Over the years, the city has suffered from the closure of several factories and various companies’ decision to relocate and outsource. Rising crime and unemployment figures have dominated Detroit-related news for some time. But now, as Katja Kullmann describes in her new book “Rasende Ruinen”, the once prospering city appears to recover from the various setbacks it endured. Businesspeople restarted investing as artists and restaurateurs settle in Detroit which suddenly has chances to turn into a trendy place of residence for creative people from all over the world.

Rasende Ruinen. Wie Detroit sich neu erfindet.
By Katja Kullmann
Published by Edition Suhrkamp Digital (www.edition-suhrkamp-digital.de)

Dietmar Süß analyses the various consequences of aerial warfare in World War Two. He describes which psychological impact the occurrences in Coventry, Dresden and other cities had on residents. Another essential aspect of his book “Toda aus der Luft” is the issue of propaganda. Süß – who released “Luftkrieg. Erinnerungen in Deutschland und Europa” in 2009 – reconstructs how political leaders attempted to justify their actions at that time. Furthermore, “Tod aus der Luft” focuses on the aftermath of the attacks in England and Germany, financial aspects, the role of the Church and rebuilding strategies.

Tod aus der Luft
By Dietmar Süß
Published by Siedler (www.siedler-verlag.de)

Chinese creations, Klimt’s concepts

“The Process of Painting”, an exhibition presenting the creations of Liu Xiaodong, is now on at the Kunsthaus Graz.

The exhibit reveals how the Chinese artist carefully merges personal experiences with criticism of unfair sociological and political circumstances in some of his pictures while he strictly separates those aspects in other works.

Visual projects are also part of the exhibition which comes just a few months after an Ai Wei Wei exhibit drew the masses to the Kunsthaus Graz (www.museum-joanneum.at).

Meanwhile, Vienna’s Wien Museum (www.wienmuseum.at) has put dozens of graphics and drawings by late Secession star Gustav Klimt on display. The exhibit underlines Klimt’s significance around the fin de siècle as it furthermore features magazines designed by the artist which were published at that time.

A painting in which Klimt captures Viennese celebrities attending a performance at the Hofburgtheater and several more oil on canvas works are part of the acclaimed exhibition as well. Busts created many years after Klimt passed away and some of the most hilarious merchandising articles influenced by the artist’s distinctive style can be observed too.

Another section of the museum is currently dedicated to 20th century poster art to underline Klimt’s vast impact on their design. Exhibits, concerts but also products of daily needs are advertised on the posters which are now on display at the Wien Museum.

Bacchus busts and binge-drinking

A fantastic exhibition examining the role of wine in the world of art over the centuries is now on at Vienna’s Museum of Art (Kunsthistorisches Museum, KHM).

“Kunst_voller_Wein” (Art and Wine) documents the artists’ focus on honouring Bacchus, the God of Wine, in former times. However, the exhibit’s spectrum is much wider since it does not neglect to show and explain the various relations between painters and the beloved alcoholic drink. Precious vases, busts and paintings are on display as part of this extraordinary exhibition.

“Kunst_voller_Wein” occupies just one room at the KHM (www.khm.at). This compact structure ensures that the visitor is not confronted with possibly negligible information regarding the topic. Those planning the exhibit made the right decision as far as this and other aspects – such as avoiding a strict chronological order of how the approximately 100 items are put on display – are concerned.

The various pictures illustrating the consequences of an exaggerated consumption of wine are true highlights of the exhibit. Some of the artists had a moralistic approach to the issue as their works confirm, while others neglected the negative aspects but portrayed the binge-drinking sessions of the old days as a vice humans should be allowed to indulge in.

The States as seen by Sternfeld

A terrific exhibit of pictures by US American photography artist Joel Sternfeld is now on at one of Vienna’s most popular galleries.

The Albertina’s “Joel Sternfeld – Farbfotografien seit 1970” exhibition underlines the photographer’s imaginative skills and his ability of reflecting day to day life in a direct and blunt way. Sternfeld’s pictures portrays apparently average people on average days, but holding on to take some time for a second look – and second thoughts – is always something worth doing when it comes to studying his excellent works.

The 130 images on display as part of the Albertina exhibition show fast food restaurants and their employees and customers, policemen on duty and businesspeople on their way home in rush hour. One room of the exhibition is dedicated to a special project of the New York City-born photographer in which he took pictures of crime scenes.

>> http://www.albertina.at

Gunkl gets to the point

The Austrian Culture Channel has interrogated Gunkl, one of Austria’s best stage entertainers, in form of an e-mail Q&A.

Gunkl, a.k.a. Günther Paal, is praised for his capability of transforming extremely complex scientific circumstances into amusing anecdotes in his programmes. Sometimes, however, he does things the other way round and confuses his audiences by converting daily life situations into what appears to be insolvable questions and insurmountable obstacles no scientist in the world can ever solve.

Gunkl (www.gunkl.at, http://www.e-a.at) has been on stages in Austria and abroad since 1994. He most recently performed “Die großen Kränkungen der Menschheit – auch schon nicht leicht”, his 10th programme, to wide acclaim across the country.

There is no need to emphasise that the Austrian Culture Channel is a fully English platform. Exceptions have to be made on very special occasions – and Gunkl’s readiness to share his wisdom on this humble website is arguably one. This is why it has been decided to abstain from translating the “Salzburger Stier” laureate’s answers to avoid robbing them of their delightful creativity and wittiness.

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Verraten Sie bitte Ihre Herangehensweise an die faszinierende Verknüpfung so komplexer Themengruppen, wie Sie sie in Ihren Stücken behandeln.

Das ist im Grunde einfach: Mich interessiert sehr vieles, daher les ich dann so Zeitschriften wie „Spektrum der Wissenschaft“, oder „Gehirn und Geist“. Und ich will immer wissen, wie die Dinge funktionieren. Ich kenn mich gern aus. Und manchmal fallen mir Zusammenhänge auf, und denen gehe ich dann nach.

Wie empfinden Sie es, wenn bei Ihren Auftritten an ‘falschen’ Stellen gelacht wird?

Das passiert eigentlich kaum, und wenn es passiert, dann ist es erstens das recht jedes Zuschauers zu lachen, wo und wann er will, und es ist mein Recht, den Vortrag dann aber so zu steuern (ohne den Text zu verändern) daß die Konzentration wieder im Fahrwasser des eigentlichen Themas ist.

Hatten bzw. haben Sie Vorbilder?

Eigentlich nicht. Johann Sebastian Bach ist natürlich einige Schuhnummern zu groß, um ihn kopieren zu wollen, aber die Klarheit des musikalischen Textes, der dann eben ohne Geseufze und großen Gesten auskommt, daß der Inhalt die Schönheit ergibt und nicht das, was man hinein- oder heraushört, das ist das, wie ich es machen will.

Gibt es so etwas wie Routine(n) im Leben eines freischaffenden Künstlers?

Natürlich gibt es das; das Programm ist ja fertig, es ist so geschrieben, wie ich es wollte, und so wird das dann auch jeden Abend gemacht. Natürlich muß ich jeden Abend mit festen Schritten durch das gesamte Programm gehen und jeden Gedanken komplett mit meinem Gemüt ausfüllen – also am phonetischen Autopiloten das Programm einfach als Silbenfolge runterrasseln geht nicht, das ist klar – aber es gibt immerweiderkehrende Abläufe, insoferne Routine.

Hatten Sie jemals bzw. haben Sie heutzutage (noch) Lampenfieber?

Hatte ich nie.

Wie schätzen Sie das viel diskutierte unterschiedliche Humorverständnis von Deutschen (Stichwort: Brachial-Comedy) und Österreichern (fragile Kleinkunst, Kabarett – aber auch Topquoten und ausverkaufte Tourneen für bzw. von deutschen TV-Comedians) ein?

Der Unterschied wird überschätzt; wer Jochen Malmsheimer, Andreas Rebers, Uta Köbernick, Georg Schramm oder noch ein paar herausragende deutsche Kleinkünstler kennt, der kann das so nicht nachvollziehen. Ich erinnere daran, daß zu der Zeit, als wir im Fernsehen den Hias als Sidekick von Karl Moik hatten war Evelyn Hamann der Sidekick von Loriot.

Haben Sie so etwas wie eine Art Lieblingsfremdwort/-wörter und wenn ja, warum gerade jene(s)?

Meine Lieblingswörter wechseln von Zeit zu Zeit. Das hängt davon ab, was mich gerade umtreibt. Manchmal ist es „Konzept“, weil ich mich gerade mit dem Thema größere Zusammenhänge und deren Zustandekommen beschäftige, ein anderes Mal „Behauptung“, weil ich am selben Thema gerade auf einem speziellen Ast sitze und etwas ausgemacht zu haben glaube.

Haben Sie gewisse Rituale oder ähnliches, um sich auf Auftritte einzustimmen?

Nein, die hab ich nicht. Rauchen muß ich. Das ist schon alles.

Welche Aspekte erachten Sie als wesentlich “Gefahren” für Künstler, wenn sich diese dazu entscheiden, politische Statements abzugeben bzw. sich gesellschaftlichspolitisch zu deklarieren und engagieren? Wie halten Sie es damit selbst?

Das muß wohlüberlegt sein, und es muß das sein, wovon der betreffende Künstler auch tatsächlich überzeugt ist. Dann geht das, aber er sollte wissen, daß die politische Praxis sich von echten Überzeugungen deutlich unterscheidet. Zu nah sollte er sich an niemanden anschmiegen, auch wenn es dort gemütlich ist.

Überwiegt bei neuen bzw. populärer werdenden kleinen Parteien und Bewegungen wie der Piratenpartei die politische Schlagkraft oder die Gefahr der dankbaren kabarettistischen Abarbeitung?

Wenn man in fünf Jahren darüber gutes Kabarett machen kann, weil das Publikum weiß, wer die überhaupt sind, und was die machen, dann haben sie politische Schlagkraft.

Gibt es ‘Zukunftsperspektiven’ für den von vielen “Dorfers Donnerstalk”-Sehern liebgewonnenen “Experten für eh alles”?

Nein, die seh ich nicht. Das war eine Figur (sehr nahe an mir, aber nicht der Bühnen-Gunkl) aber den gab es nur in dieser Sendung.

Art stars & fast cars

A run-down, shabby place. A working-class dominated city which lacks any kind of cultural creativity. Don’t go there unless you want to become seriously frustrated.

Such harsh terms were commonly used when it came to characterising Linz. Whether any of it is true, these days are long gone. The provincial capital of Linz has succeeded in giving itself a new image. Now the city – which is located not far from Vienna, Munich, Graz and Salzburg and can therefore reached conveniently by train or car – is considered as one of the most vibrant places in Austria.

Fans of theatre, rock and classical music, contemporary art and architecture – Linz manages to attract them all with a diverse offer of exhibits, concerts and other events. The Lentos Musuem (www.lentos.at) can arguably be described as the heart of the city’s vibrant art scene. Opened in 2003, the gallery gives local artists the chance to put their works on display. However, the creations by renowned international names can also be studied in special exhibitions at the museum situated at the Danube promenade.

Ian Scully’s large-sized paintings are the current main attraction of the museum. The Lentos’ excellent permanent exhibit of art of the 20th century must not be missed by anyone interested in art who visits Austria’s “Steel City”. Paintings and sculptures by celebrated late artists and contemporary stars of the scene are featured in this wonderfully composed exhibition. Gottfried Helnwein’s famous portrait of Marilyn Manson is one of the highlights. Paintings by Gustav Klimt, Maria Lassnig and Egon Schiele are on display as well.

An exhibit focusing on the innovative design which has ensured Porsche’s reputation as one of the finest sport car brands in the worlds can currently be visited at the Tabakfabrik (www.porsche-ausstellung.com), a now defunct tobacco factory. Vehicles from all eras are on display. Other essential parts of the superb exhibition are various films and many photographs portraying the making of some of the most famous Porsche models as well as the enterprise’s rise to the top.

Book look: a new language, a tradition-rich region and an extraordinary journey

Langenscheidt proclaims to have the “system to succeed”, as the subtitle of its language-learning books and various self-studying guides says. Its new French course book is another evidence that the renowned publishing house does not break its promises. “Französisch mit System” is an excellent help for everybody willing to learn the language in a proper and structured way. The grammatical and rhetorical contents are cleverly linked with typical daily life situations such as writing a birthday party invitation, meeting friends at a cafe and applying for a job. Other chapters are about travelling, business meetings and fashion. “Französisch mit System” comes with CDs featuring various conversations to help learners with getting the pronunciation of the one or other tricky French word right. The book by Micheline Funke and Braco Lukenic can be recommended to absolute beginners and those interested in refreshing their long-lost French skills.

Französisch mit System
By Micheline Funke and Braco Lukenic
Published by Langenscheidt (www.langenscheidt.de)

Hearty food, polite people and an incomprehensible dialect – these and many other clichés still dominate many people’s perception of Saxony. In “50 einfache Dinge, die Sie über Sachsen wissen sollten”, Gunter Böhnke investigates the substance of the many prejudices. Böhnke, a Dresden-born stage performer and comedian, writes about Saxons’ love for card games, football and wine but also explains the vast impact of late aristocrats’ decisions on today’s sociological, political and demographic circumstances. As Saxony – which has charming small towns, spectacular natural beauty spots and fascinating cities like Leipzig and Dresden on offer to holidaymakers – gathers pace as a location to take a vacation at, the release date of this great book could not have been chosen better.

50 einfache Dinge, die Sie über Sachsen wissen sollten
By Gunter Böhnke
Published by Westend (www.westendverlag.de)

Twenty-six countries, 26 intense portraits of individuals. This was the concept for Oliver Lück’s sublime book “Neues from Nachbarn”. In the recently released paperback, Lück – who had been accompanied by his dog Locke as he travelled across Europe in an old van – unveils amusing anecdotes. However, the one or other unfortunate occurrence is shared with the reader as well. Peter Urdl, a school-time friend of movie legend and former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is among those portrayed by Lück as he scoured the continent for interesting characters. Urdl is one of the adamant driving forces who created the Schwarzenegger museum which eventually opened to enormous international interest in Thal near Graz, the capital of the Austrian province of Styria, last year.

Neues vom Nachbarn
By Oliver Lück
Published by rororo / Rowohlt (www.rororo.de)

Calexico are coming

Calexico will give a very special concert in Vienna next month, it has been revealed.

The Arizona-based band, whose output is strongly influenced by Mexican and South American sounds and rhythms, are lined up to perform at the city’s Konzerthaus on 22 September. The Konzerthaus is one of the best-known classical music venues of the Austrian capital. On rare occasions, gigs of groups of other genres take place there too. Fans of the band – who enjoy highest praise by the global music press at least since 2003 when “Feast of Wire” came out – can look forward to a very special night.

Calexico have created their very own sound by beautifully merging the music of southern and central parts of the American continent with American folk rock. After enjoying success at a relatively early stage of their career, they managed to keep standards up and fans pleased over the years. Albums like the wonderfully harmonic “Garden Ruin” from 2006 and the strongly acclaimed “Carried to Dust”, which was released two years later, are just two recent confirmations of their excellence.

The band’s name may not be part of the bill if rock fans’ are asked to disclose the headline acts of the event of their dreams. But there is no doubt that they are a certain bet for a good time on summertime afternoons – on festival stages across the world and on the MP3 players and stereos of people relaxing in the sun. Now fans of Calexico – who play instruments as diverse as trumpets and cellos – are at the ready for a unique live experience at the Konzerthaus.

For ticket information, go to http://www.skalarmusic.at and http://www.konzerthaus.at. Other eagerly awaited concerts set to take place in Vienna are the performances by Toto (“Hold the Line”, “Africa”) who will rock the Arena on 22 August, soul pop legend George Michael (4 September, Stadthalle), Scottish indie rockers The View (17 September, Flex).