Visiting Beer-Hofmann. An Exhibition on Jewish Vienna at the Turn of the Century
"Visiting Beer-Hofmann" is an exhibition on Jewish Vienna at the Turn of the Century. The presentation is organized as a soiree at the home of Richard Beer-Hofmann, one of the most influential writers of that period. The invited guests are Viennese intellectuals, mostly of Jewish origin, playing a major part in Vienna’s cultural life. Each of the guests brings a present (paintings, manuscripts, photos, furniture etc.). By showing these objects, a network of personal, social, and political connections is created, thus describing the historical background as well as the tensions, disputes and conflicts of that period of time.
A special concern of the exhibition "Visiting Beer-Hofmann" has been to expose the easy to sell product of "Viennese Fin-de-siècle" as well as the exhibition itself as being what they really are: simply constructs of our view of history. To provide a permanent pointer to this construct, the exhibition is based on a fiction: Richard Beer-Hofmann invites guests to an evening at his house, and each guest, as is customary, brings a gift. This idea is not without foundation since the Beer-Hofmann house was in fact one of the centers where some of the intellectual elite of the time gathered. Not only historically authenticated guests were selected to illustrate the incredibly dense and so decisive cultural fabric of relationships in Vienna between the end of the nineteenth and the first third of the twentieth century, but also persons who might have been visitors to the Beer-Hofmanns' home. On the other hand, some acutal friends and acquaintences of his were not considered due to a lack of relevant objects, and the time of the evening chosen is as obviously fictitious as the event itself.
Accepting this fiction, the visitor should allow himself, up to a certain degree, to become the guest. That way he is not simply be a voyeuristic and consuming observer of the visits to Beer-Hofmann, but is a visitor in a double sense. To this end, he should distinguish between Beer-Hoffmann's inner world, represented through a mainly genuine ambience, and the outer world of the guests, represented through their gifts. Each guest brings an individual gift that focuses on a specific topic.
Although Richard Beer-Hofmann might have been pleased, astounded, or even annoyed about the variety and pointedness of these gifts, he was also forced to consider his era, friends and colleagues, art, modernism, nationalism and anti-Semitism, Judaism and Zionism at the time of Fin-de-siècle Vienna. As he could not limit his view to aesthetic appreciation of the aura, sensuousness, and sometimes humor of these presents, so should one as a visitor to the exhibition and to the evening at Beer-Hofmanns' itself also consider the deeper significance behind these gifts.
"Visiting Beer-Hofmann. An Exhibition on Jewish Vienna at the Turn of the Century" is a joint exhibition of the Jewish museums of Amsterdam and Vienna.
Curator: Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek