English summaries November 9 - 15

Hofmobiliendepot – Möbel Museum Wien: Interior Design between the Wars – Viennese Furniture 1914-1941 Core house and Canadian “Viennese Interior Design” is often still underrated. Thanks to the exhibition at the Hofmobiliendepot curated by Eva B. Ottillinger this could change. A small range of international examples highlights the context of the Viennese scene. In the Austrian section, rosewood dressers and upholstered “Canadians” as well as the concepts of a worker’s apartment of the “Red Vienna” and housing designs by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky’s “Kernhäuser” (core houses) with their cheap softwood furniture are presented. The collection, assembled by Siegfried Loos, Margot Fürtsch and Gabriele Lenz, not only focuses on case studies of apartments furnished between the 1910’s and 1930’s, but also on its commissioners and users. Family albums and correspondence between the craftsmen and the designers complement the biographical outlines. No attempt is made to hide the lifeless aura - due to the “Aryanisation”, emigration and the generally changed context - of the presented furniture with pseudo-authentic arrangements. What was ignored in the assortment of at that time completely new concept of “designer” apartments, was the fact during the First Republic an apartment was not meant to be flawless, but heterogeneous, yes, even contradictory, and influenced by coincidences - like its inhabitants. By Iris Meder Hofmobiliendepot- Möbel Museum Wien 1070 Vienna, Mariahilfer Strasse 88, Entrance Andreasgasse 7, until 14.02.10 www.hofmobiliendepot.at Kunsthalle Wien: 1989. End of history or beginning of the future? Comments on a paradigm shift Broken and repaired with scars The 1980’s began and ended with flights, insurgencies, and executions. The iron curtain rises and the return of repressed memories is once again clearly recognizable. The term “iron curtain” originated in the theatre world and symbolised the dividing wall between the audience and the stage -as protection in case of fire. Politics took the term into its repertoire and gave it a negative connotation. Not only did the most diverse political systems break up, the Eastern countries deprived their citizens of all economic possibilities. The year 1989 was the year of the turnaround, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, followed by the eastward extension of the EU 15 years later, and quite a few changes among the hierarchies of Central European national states. Oliver Rathkolb, the curator responsible for the historical part of the exhibition “1989. End of History or Beginning of the Future?” highlights the fact that “this is the only year in the 20th century” in which political decision makers “lost control”. Historians oftentimes have a tendency towards abstraction. Individual destinies are oftentimes lost. The exhibition presents “counter-history”, an “outline of cultural memory”, as Rathkolb points out. Codes and figures, faces, landscapes, and bodies of former Eastern Block countries are handled by contemporary artists in both an ironic as well as a tragic way. The statement that the turnaround came suddenly and as a surprise for many is the key element of the historic and artistic parts of the show. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s installation “The Big Archive” is one of the highlights of the exhibition and takes up 160 square meters. It is a claustrophobic memorial of the over-administrated planned economy, and impressively presents not only the meaninglessness of Eastern bureaucracy. Surveillance devices as well as the irony and tragedy of everyday life are wonderfully presented in film and photographic form under the term “case history” by Boris Mikhailov, Marek Piwowski and Jane and Louise Wilson. With his video “Nobody is still there where he started”, Marcel Odenbach draws attention to the downfall of the Berlin Wall. Anna Jermolaewa attempts to record her own life’s journey on video, but, similar to some of her other works, she gets entangled in an infinite loop. The sudden breakup of history and the functionalization of man in his transformation from a uniform communistic to a pluralistic-capitalistic paradigm is the main theme of the exhibition. The topic would have been worthy of its own museum. By Alexander Lass Kunsthalle Wien 1070 Vienna, Museumsplatz 1, until 07.02.10 www.kunsthallewien.at Museo Thyssen-Bormisza: Henri Fantin-Latour 1836 – 1904 People and flowerpots or Dr. Fantin and Mr. Latour “Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904)”: the encounter with the French artist's first works is equally dispassionate as the title of this exhibition. Portraits and self-portraits: sullen glances from the almost demonic faces without any expression – or all of them with the same expression – that of the artist? If it weren’t for the symbolic allegories of arts and musicians with the elegiac homage to the “Anniversary (to Berlioz)”. While the seriously composed group-portraits are designed as austere photographs, the allegories are clearly influenced by symbolism. And indeed, his travels to England lead him to the Pre-Raphaelites and strengthened his love of nature and natural depictions even more. But Fantin never painted outdoors. Well-educated, a music expert, patient mediator among English and French painters, friend of the artistic elite during his time in Paris, strict studio painter, specialized on flower- and fruit still lifes with great success in England, which he also painted in the studio and conveying a dazzling energy. His motifs concentrate on the essence. Fantin-Latour advises to “paint a person as one paints a flowerpot.” Whoever thinks this explains the rigidity of his portraits errs: he devotes his love to flowers and fruits. They are filled with life – something he acknowledges for people as well. But the conception, the background, the dazzling light create distance, artificiality, or the frozen moment of taking a photograph. This is especially obvious in “Coin de table”, 1872, with Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and other French poets seated around a table. The portraits of women reading are far more romantic. He learned his craft by copying the works of old masters at the Louvre. Curator Vincent Pomarède chose two especially beautiful examples of this phase: small oil paintings “Paradise”, a Tintoretto-copy, made in 1870, small, confused, insinuated, unclear, and “El Calvario” a Veronese-copy (1854). And there are two copies of Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana”: one from Belfast another from Mexico-city. Maybe Fantin-Latour, whose work was presented in 150 English and more than 70 French exhibitions during his lifetime, is now no longer given much attention because he lacked a certain line, a trademark. The exceptions: in 2007, the Foundation de l’Heritage in Lausanne dedicated its exhibition to Fantin “De la réalité au rève” and now the Thyssen-Bormisza, in cooperation with the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. By Clementine Kügler Museo Thyssen-Bormisza 28014 Madrid, Palacio de Villahermosa Paseo del Prado, 8l, until 10.01.10 www.museotheyssen.org Musée Galliera: Accessoire et objets, témoignages de vies de femmes à Paris 1940 – 1944 To make a virtue of necessity Whoever was recently in Paris to view the ready-to-wear collection was offered quite a few examples of what is considered “wearable” and “rational reductionism”: “Difficult” times require sobriety. Apart from the mundane catwalks the Musée Galliera, together with the Musée Jean Moulin, are presenting a unique fashion show. Here you will see how the praised “Parisian elegance” subsisted even during the war years, characterized by shortage and distress. The extensive text material, the sensitively selected case studies and the carefully arranged compilation of the exhibited material avoids the imminent danger of letting the topic be viewed cynically or emotionally. The curators, Fabienne Falluel and Marie-Laure Gutton, are tactful enough to master the balancing act between the abysses of insipidity and admonishing. An edited version of the 1942 weekly newsreels reveals a lot about the “Parisian elegance”. To hide the unpopularity of the occupying forces in France, the chic and extravaganza of the “inventive” Parisians is misused as evidence that the situation was beginning to get back to normal: “fashion demands its rights and proves that women have found a way to cope with the new situation”, an off-voice announces. Irrespective of these allurements, the women adjusted to the difficult conditions as well as possible. New handbags with extra room for a torchlight and a variety of utensils were en vogue in Paris from 1940 to 1944. And Elsa Schiaparell, inspired by a pilot’s uniform, designed a house frock, which offered some warmth in the unheated apartments. The most significant accents came from the accessory sector – possibly the last domain, which offered the scarce resources some room for flexible design. In 1943, the women’s magazine Marie Claire declared both the elegant as well as the inventive lady as equals. “Getting by “– both in sedulous homework as well as in large fashion houses was the motto. In both cases, new materials were utilized: for the first time cork and wood were used as shoe soles, shoes were knitted or crocheted, rough sawdust was integrated in fashionable hairdos or hats were made of paper. Quite a number of details, which were later rediscovered by the fashion Avant-garde, were used for the first time. Using leftovers (leather, fur), misappropriating (furniture cloth) or revamping (hands bags made of old cashmere scarves) was normal during the war years - long before the term recycling came up. It is interesting to observe how the designs became increasingly daring the longer the years of occupation lasted. Extravagant creativity predominated, and for the time being serene elegance was suspended. Even for the well-meaning fashion expert, this exhibition is able to not only remind of all this but at the same time to view the hysterically functioning fashion universe at a greater distance – a comforting thought. By Daniel Kalt Musée Galliera 75015 Paris, Jardin Atlantique – Gare Montparnasse, until 15.11.2009 www.paris.fr/portail/Culture/Portal.lut?page_id=6923

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