A Song of Reason. Chess: The World in 64 Squares
May 3 to June 30, 1996
Among all games, chess assumes a special position. It has accompanied men for more than a thousand years and its language is understood worldwide. The origins of chess are uncertain. As a game of rationality, it has held artists and mathematicians, philosophers and writers spellbound. Chess has been played at royal courts and in courtyards, by wise men of Persia and Christian kings, by clowns and emigrants, whose home was portable: a playing board with 8x8 squares, 32 pieces and an ensemble of old rules.
Chess reached Europe via Persia and Arabia and wherever it made its appearance, an enormous cultural echo rose. Chess is a symbol of tolerance, of understanding, and of a world determined by rationality. The history of chess is inseparably connected with the history of Judaism. The singer Masur al-Yehudi received the game of chess from a Persian. Great Jewish players, scholars, and patrons have made the game to what it is today. The exhibition “A Song of Reason” depicts the journey of the game of chess around the world and throughout time. The exhibition will focus on the most beautiful chess pieces from the Middle Ages to the present. The chess pieces also tell the story of a day and a life: a chess game and the life of the great Polish chess master, Akiba Rubinstein (1882-1961). Whereas the chess pieces on the first floor of the Museum are kept immobile, those on the ground level are set in motion. A simultaneous match and grand masters’ tournament will be part of the exhibition. Sculptures appear for moments on the chess board and then destroy themselves move by move.
Curators: Ernst Strouhal, Eva Blimlinger
PLEIN AIR - The Landscape Painter Tina Blau (1845-1916)
June 12 to October 6, 1996
As the first large art exhibition after the restructuring of Palais Eskeles, the Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna presents a retrospective of Tina Blau’s œuvre. This Viennese painter established her fame with her depictions of the Prater. Art connaisseurs admire her atmospheric impressions from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Austria (and in particular Vienna), and treasure her landscapes and still lives. Tina Blau’s position in art history rests on two achievements: on the one hand, the artist (born in 1845) was one of the first universally acclaimed women painters; on the other hand, she is amongst the leading exponents of Austrian art in the second half of the 19th century.
Tina Blau’s landscapes depart significantly from the typical “genre” paintings (Makart, Piloty, Defregger) that prevailed during the latter half of the last century. Throughout her life, the artist endeavored to find her own artistic truth in a continuing exploration of the effect of light on the landscapes she painted. The exhibition at the Jewish Museum follows Tina Blau’s oeuvre according to the many stages of her artistic development: paintings from her many travels, to Holland, to Rome and to Paris; sketches and paintings from Vienna’s suburbs that held a special attraction for the painter; her still lives, many drawings and a number of biographical documents round out the exhibition - and her famous paintings of one of Vienna’s largest parks, the Prater, take center stage at the exhibition. In addition, an amply illustrated catalogue (for ATS 348,-) contains new articles on Tina Blau’s contribution to “Austrian atmospheric impressionism”.
Curator: Tobias G. Natter
There ain’t nothing too hard for an engineer. Inventors, scientists, innovators
July 26 to October 6, 1996
Much has been written about the contribution of the Viennese Jews to turn-of-the-century culture and about Austria‘s great loss following the expulsion of the intellectual and cultural élite after the “Anschluss”. Contrary to writers, philosophers, theatre actors and directors or artists, the scientists, technicians and economists were not so much in the centre of public interest. Many of those who made important contributions to the economic and industrial development of Austria are today only known by a small group of experts.
The work situation for Jewish scientists in Austria was however extremely difficult many years prior to the “Anschluss” and was marked by much harassment and discrimination. They were often prevented from embarking on an academic career, or baptism was made a pre-requisite for doing so. The financial situation of science and research in Austria after the end of the monarchy was also poor and many researchers such as the famous physicists Lise Meitner and Wolfgang Pauli emigrated to other countries in the years prior to the “Anschluss” to find better conditions for their work. The final turning point came in the year 1938 when the Austrian Jews were forced to leave all positions in the public service; Jewish property was confiscated and “reason was expelled from Austria”.
Our exhibition shows the life and works of several important Jewish inventors, scientists and innovators who had the gift in “the highest moments of immeasurable duration to think infinite thoughts” and then to realise these in practice, although as Jews they were often under certain restrictions. They are the representatives of the great number of personalities who have today been forgotten.
Curator: Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz
JudenFragen. Jewish Attitudes from Assimilation to Zionism
October 25, 1996 to February 16, 1997
Hundred years after the publication of Theodor Herzl’s “A Jewish State. An Attempt at a Modern Solution of the Jewish Question” (Der Judenstaat. Versuch einer modernen Lösung der Judenfrage), the Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna highlights the topic of Jewish identity by presenting the exhibition “JudenFragen. Jewish Attitudes from Assimilation to Zionism” (JudenFragen. Jüdische Positionen von Assimilation bis Zionismus). Beginning with the question of what constitues Judaism and “Jewishness” - to which Theodor Herzl’s Zionism proposed one possible answer - the most important Jewish attitudes theoretically developed and practically experienced in our century are introduced in this show. These attitudes range from efforts at total assimilation and the commitment to universalism or socialism to the various types of Zionism. All these attitudes are closely linked to existential issues and the personal decision of how to master the problem of being Jewish in a (partly hostile) majority society: what is the meaning of Judaism? How can one live Judaism? However, the exhibition will also emphasize some strands of the complex history that has brought about the creation of the State of Israel, whose basis was laid by Theodor Herzl, a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and resident of Vienna. Yet beyond all historical facts, the significance of the Zionist idea as an identity-creating and cultural concept will be confronted with other typical Jewish identity models and conveyed by means of literary, pictorial and sound documents as well as by outstanding works of the visual arts.
Curators: Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, Werner Hanak, Hannes Sulzenbacher, Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz