Balthus’ brilliance

The unique oeuvre of Balthus can now be discovered in Vienna.

The Bank Austria (BA) Kunstforum, a gallery situated near the Burgtheater, is currently presenting the painter’s most important works. However, the exhibition’s setup is rather comprehensive and therefore enables visitors to dive deep into the artistic galaxy of the Paris-born painter.

Balthasar Klossowski de Rola’s most popular works are portraits in biedermeieresque settings and extravagant cat pictures. Most of his paintings are mysterious and complex. They are throwing questions at the beholders, challenging them by offering several possible meanings.

Balthus’ paintings are mostly restricted to a small number of colours such as beige and ochre. There are only a few exceptions that feature a wider range. One room is dedicated to his “Cosi fan tutte” stage and costume drafts.

Curators Evelyn Benesch, Cecile Debray and Matteo Lafranconi also put a controversial series of Polaroids on display. The photos show a bare-breasted teenage girl. Balthus was accused of paedophilia and pornography after taking these pictures. An exhibition even had to be cancelled due to the public outcry. At the BA Kunstforum (www.bankaustria-kunstforum.at), it is in the eye of the beholder.

Balthus – who was friends with Alberto Giacometti and David Bowie – died in 2001. The Balthus exhibit – which is based on paintings from different private collections and museums especially in Switzerland and France – follows remarkable exhibitions of artworks by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Hubert Schmalix and Herbert Brandl.

Kehrer Verlag published the official Balthus exhibition catalogue. For more information, visit http://www.kehrerverlag.com

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Eickhoff’s explanations

Peter Eickhoff promises amusing, surprising and unusual insights as the Austrian capital keeps getting more popular. His book “111 Orte in Wien, die man gesehen haben muss” is in contention with numerous travel guides, photo books and similar releases focusing on Vienna’s top attractions and less known areas.

After reading some of Eickhoff’s chapters, it becomes evident that he really is an expert on the multi-faceted city. There are no real secrets anymore regarding places you have to visit during your stay in the city of music, coffee and cake. Institutions like the Wien Museum and the Filmmuseum are key elements of mainstream travel guides. However, Eickhoff underlines the individual qualities of these and many other places. He describes memorial sites commemorating the Nazis’ Jewish victims, the Dorotheum’s Favoriten branch, a park named after a jazz legend and a Che Guevara bust.

Eickhoff’s texts are short, and packed with information but never boring or superficial. His book’s broad spectrum of topics is astonishing – from the Amalienbad at Reumannplatz to off-space galleries and various cafes. You can find out where Falco, Supermax and Thomas Bernhard are buried and which locations offer the most stunning views on the city.

Unfortunately, the updated (according to the imprint) version from 2014 of “111 Orte in Wien, die man gesehen haben muss” still contains some unfortunate spelling mistakes such as Helmuth (sic) Qualtinger. The 13th district is called Hitzing instead of Hietzing. And coming across a term like Rentner in a book about Austria feels odd. There are also some layout and structure errors: the texts about quartier21 and Rote Bar got mixed up and therefore do not correspond with the illustrations.

In his article about the Wiener Sportklub, Eickhoff claims that most of the team’s supporters are leftists while many fans of SK Rapid and FK Austria – the city’s dominating clubs – have a far-right or even Nazi mindset. This accusation is outrageous, especially since Eickhoff mentions the apolitical Ultras movement. These aspects certainly reduce readers’ pleasure while Karl Haimel’s photographs are just brilliant.

111 Orte in Wien, die man gesehen haben muss
By Peter Eickhoff & Karl Haimel
Published by Emons (www.emons-verlag.de)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Gerd the goal machine

He broke all goal-scoring records and spent most of his glorious career at the same club. What seems like a flawless, bright episode in German football is a story of contradicting relationships, financial troubles and addiction.

“Gerd Müller. Der Bomber der Nation” is the title of a new biography by Udo Muras and Patrick Strasser. The experienced sports journalists carried out extensive research to create an authentic portrait of the Bayern Munich legend. Müller was a decisive part of the club’s starting eleven in the 1960s and 1970s. He also won trophies with the national team, most famously the World Cup in 1974.

The book starts with an examination of the split between Müller and his club before describing his childhood in the remote town of Nördlingen. The striker joined Fort Lauderdale Strikers – a doomed relationship despite a decent number of goals. Müller’s American period is also shaped by his decision to open a restaurant – an economic disaster. At this time, his alcohol addiction got worse.

Things got totally out of control after he returned to Munich. Müller then spent years watching movies and playing tennis. In the meantime, his former teammates Uli Hoeneß and Franz Beckenbauer launched successful careers as managers. The eloquent duo helped Müller getting up on his feet as he finally realised he had to stop boozing.

The authors of “Gerd Müller. Der Bomber der Nation” are not shying away from describing the brutal details of withdrawal as Müller sold his story to a tabloid at that time. The authors did a decent job as they abstained from telling the story of a spotless soccer star. On the final page of their book, Muras and Strasser admit having decided to leave out some details regarding the private life of the celebrated footballer in order to protect and respect his privacy. Not all colleagues and readers will agree with this decision – despite the writers’ successful attempt to consider all aspects of Müller’s story.

Muras and Strasser managed to get Thomas Müller, one of the FCB’s top stars of today, to write the foreword. They interviewed many ex-teammates of the “Bomber” – who suffers from dementia today – like Hoeneß, Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner and Jupp Heynckes but also searched newspaper archives and previously released books about Germany’s outstanding footballers of the 1970s.

Especially the chapters about Müller’s addiction and his difficult relationship with his family, old friends and some teammates are gripping while the parts about Bayern’s phenomenal triumphs do not feature lots of new or revealing information. “Gerd Müller. Der Bomber der Nation” is a fine book but, at 250 pages, too long. Some elements such as colleagues’ praise of Müller’s character (“always friendly, humble and honest“) are repetitive and therefore anything but exciting.

Gerd Müller. Der Bomber der Nation
By Udo Muras and Patrick Strasser
Published by Riva (www.rivaverlag.de)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Mozart & the mountains

The reception of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his oeuvre has been immensely blurred and manipulated over the past decades. Marketing directors, tourism agencies and political leaders have abused thepopularity of Austria’s greatest composer of all time. It has become extremely difficult to determine who Mozart actually was and what he represents. Now a book featuring scientific articles concerning our reception of the Salzburg wunderkind reveals surprising information. Christoph Großpietsch of Mozarteum Salzburg, Stefanie Krenner, Cliff Eisen and other experts contributed articles in German and English. Their investigations examine the different theories regarding Mozart’s appearance and his importance regarding Austria’s national identity. “Mozart-Bilder. Bilder Mozarts” – which features many old documents and drawings – takes readers beyond the famous portraits of Barbara Krafft and Johann Joseph Lenge.

Mozart-Bilder. Bilder Mozarts
By Christoph Großpietsch and others
Published by Verlag Anton Pustet (www.pustet.at)

“Land der Berge” is a caricature kaleidoscope which reveals the dark side of winter tourism. Rudi Hurzlmeier does not shy away from unmasking the romantic and idyllic picture Austrians love to create of life in the Alps and alpine skiing, one of residents’ favourite sports and an essential part of the country’s DNA. The renowned cartoonist’s paintings and caricatures featured in this new book display the negative effects of exaggerated tourism as the impact of climate change will soon force hotel managers and marketing agency directors to rethink their strategy. “Land der Berge” does not just feature paintings and caricatures – of which some can be categorised somewhere between Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller and Caspar David Friedrich. The Holzbaum publication also includes several poems and essays by Kurt Tucholsky, Thomas Gsella, Erich Kästner and others.

Land der Berge
By Rudi Hurzlmeier
Published by Holzbaum (www.holzbaumverlag.at)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Ramsauer on radical Islamists

Why are so many young Muslims attracted to the brutal regime of the so-called Islamic State? What are the strategies of the terror organisation’s recruiters? Where are they operating in Europe?

In her new book, Petra Ramsauer tries to answer these and many other questions regarding Daesh, the war in Syria and the rising risk of terror attacks in Europe. A wide range of issues is examined in “Die Dschihad-Generation”. Ramsauer (“Muslimbrüder. Ihre geheime Strategie – Ihr globales Netzwerk”) analyses the fast rise of IS as well as individual recruiting cases and what they have in common.

The Austrian journalist – who has travelled to Libya, Syria and other crisis regions for magazines like News and profil – points out that almost all of the young Europeans who joined Daesh might have experienced rejection, serious personal insults and discouraging experiences at home or in school. She underlines that various researches show that the lives of many young foreign fighters were dominated by family-internal conflicts.

“Die Dschihad-Generation” features surprising information regarding the role of women who join the jihad. Ramsauer also analyses the Islamic States’ effective internet activities and the intentions of those who leave their families in order to support Daesh on the frontlines.

Thousands of articles and books have been published concerning the increasing popularity of IS among young Muslims frustrated by prejudices and stigmatisation. Ramsauer considered some of her previously released articles but also statements in court by those who returned to Austria and Germany from fighting in Syria and Iraq and interviews with sociologists and radicalisation experts from Great Britain, France and other countries in international media. Studies by internationally renowned Islamism experts are also among her sources. At around 200 pages, “Die Dschihad-Generation” offers a compact and serious approach to the unpredictable threat called Islamic State.

Die Dschihad-Generation
By Petra Ramsauer
Published by Styria Premium (www.styriabooks.at)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Leopold Figl, the founding father of post-war Austria

The decisive events in one of the most important years in Austrian history are in the focus of a new book.

Helmut Wohnout portrays the impressive life and political career of Leopold Figl. The ÖVP icon was arrested during most of the Nazi regime. He suffered torture and solitary confinement in the concentration and forced labour camps of Dachau and Mauthausen. Figl almost immediately gathered with friends and political partners to establish the Austrian People’s Party. He also was an influential thinker in recreating Austrian federalism and constitutional frameworks. The Lower Austrian, who grew up in the Tulln region, went on to become chancellor and foreign minister. He is famous for presenting the State Treaty to tens of thousands from the balcony of Belvedere Palace in Vienna in 1955.

Wohnout especially took a closer look at the manifold occurrences of 1945 – from the first meeting of Vienna’s conservatives to Figl’s crucial role in ensuring basic food supply before World War Two was finally over. What happened between spring and Christmas of this year is just unbelievable. Peace was finally here, but people were starving. Figl was assigned with food distribution responsibilities by the occupying Soviet troops in the Vienna area. He managed to normalise the situation in this concern before becoming the key political personality of the wounded country. A few months earlier, Figl had to fear being executed.

Wohnout creates a precise portrait of Figl but focuses too intensively on conflicts between leading ÖVP politicians. The author abstains from naming a single vice or wrong decision made by Figl. The ÖVP icon’s achievements are undisputed. However, Wohnout’s writing lets Figl appear as a faultless messiah of progressive conservatism.

Leopold Figl und das Jahr 1945
By Helmut Wohnout
Published by Residenz Verlag (www.residenzverlag.at)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Rapid & rock ‘n’ roll

Rapid Vienna’s most memorable moments in domestic and European competition are celebrated in a new book. Gregor Labes, Kersten Bogner and three more authors compiled a gripping selection of anecdotes about the Green-Whites who are currently getting ready to move into a new stadium. “111 Gründe, den SK Rapid zu lieben” describes early tactics as well as the very special atmosphere at the Pfarrwiese and the Gerhard Hannapi Stadium, the club’s former venues. Rapid home matches are now taking place at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna’s Prater Park. In a few months, construction of the team’s Allianz Stadium in Hütteldorf in the west of the city will be finished. Readers of this new book find out why former Rapid and national team coach Josef Hickersberger renamed the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium into St. Hanappi. “111 Gründe, den SK Rapid zu lieben” also features stories about the team’s Vienna derby highlights and various players such as Christian Stumpf, one of Rapid’s key players of the 1990s. Furthermore, the book informs about the infamous Rapidviertelstunde, Hans Krankl’s achievements, Toni Fritsch’s NFL adventure and Federal President Heinz Fischer’s green-white passion.

111 Gründe, den SK Rapid zu lieben
By Fabian Mosser, Gerald Pichler and others
Published by Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf (www.schwarzkopf-schwarzkopf.de)

From Buffalo Springfield to “Living with War” and “Fork in the Road”. Two US American music journalists have created an impressively comprehensive book on the stunning career of Neil Young. “Long May You Run. The Illustrated History” has been translated by Ulrike Bischoff and Willfried Baatz. Fans will be pleased as it features everything you need to know about one of the most influential personalities in music business. Durchholz and Graff reveal the background stories behind crucial songs created by Young throughout the decades. Furthermore, they write about his various collaborations and legendary world tours. “Neil Young. Long May You Run – Eine Biografie in Bildern” confirms the estimation that Young’s style is highly significant and unique. On the other hand, it shows how versatile and creative Young has always been. He has never shied away from exceptional musical partnerships to reinvent his sound. Like this, the Canadian icon has remained relevant until today. His most recent studio albums prove that he still got it – and “Neil Young. Long May You Run – Eine Biografie in Bildern” is the perfect opportunity to catch up with what has happened so far! The publication is part of a great series of music-themed books released by Edel such as Ryan White’s “Springsteen Retrospektive” focusing on Bruce Springsteen’s discography. Christof Graf wrote about Leonard Cohen while Marc Eliot presented his Paul Simon biography. Other Edel releases take a closer look on the brilliant careers of Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and Aretha Franklin.

Neil Young. Long May You Run – Eine Biografie in Bildern
By Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff
Published by Edel (www.edel.com)

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas