Peter Altenberg. Excerpts from Life
January 22 to April 27, 2003
Peter Altenberg was the quintessential poet and one of the central figures in fin de siècle Vienna. He was admired by many of his contemporaries and at the same time laughed at: a dreamer and legendary coffee house figure, an admirer of beautiful women and unspoiled landscapes, a master of aphorisms and other literary forms, a disciple of nature and health fanatic who was nevertheless not averse to a drop of alcohol. He was also a very visual person and artist who was quick to recognize and promote photography as a new art form. Altenberg’s albums of postcards complete with inscriptions were forerunners of the collage technique.
He spent most of his life in hotels and restaurants and was always in financial difficulty, receiving assistance from friends and even celebrating this consummate “schnorrer” existence as an end in itself.
His Bohemian way of life soon earned him the reputation as the “fool of Vienna”, because of the great respect with which he treated cab drivers, chambermaids and others. His moodiness was also renowned – he was quick to pick a fight with his best friends, sponsors and writer colleagues, but just as quick to make up with them. The exhibition documents his fluctuating relationship with friends and artist colleagues such as Arthur Schnitzler, Adolf Loos, Karl Kraus, Hermann Bahr and Richard Beer-Hofmann.
Curators: Heinz Lunzer, Victoria Lunzer-Talos, Marcus G. Patka
Karl Duldig (1902-1986) – Sculptures and Drawings
February 12 to May 4, 2003
The Jewish Museum Vienna will once again be presenting an exhibition devoted to an artist who was forced to leave Austria on account of the Nazis. The exhibition is entitled “Karl Duldig (1902-1986) – Sculptures and Drawings” and features works by this largely forgotten artist, who, after leaving Vienna, ultimately found a new life in Australia. Born in Przemysl in 1902, the son of a wealthy Galician Jew, he arrived in imperial Vienna in 1914 with his parents, where he studied under Anton Hanak and embarked upon his artistic career as a sculptor. Duldig’s subsequent works were created while on the move: he fled the Nazis in 1938, escaping via Switzerland to the former British crown colony of Singapore. From there he was deported to Australia and interned. The personal and artistic experiences in exile are similar to those of other émigré artists, such as the Bauhaus visionary Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, whose works were featured in a Jewish Museum exhibition in the year 2000.
Duldig’s studies and early years as a sculptor before 1938 took place during a period of European art history that is still largely unresearched. It is hoped that the Jewish Museum’s decision to devote an exhibition to one of the most important representatives of the Anton Hanak and Josef Müllner school will go some way towards making this under-represented period of Austrian sculpture more accessible to the public.
Duldig and his wife were instrumental in opening up sculpture to a wider public in Australia. Not only was Duldig the driving force behind the Victorian Sculpture Society (later: Association of Sculptors of Victoria); as a secondary school teacher he helped to heighten awareness of modern European art in particular. The exhibition reflects Duldig’s status as a European artist in exile and provides an outline to this largely uncharted area of art history. It includes works from all periods of the artist’s life and has three main focuses: his work as a student of Hanak and his years in Vienna, the intermezzo in Singapore, and finally his work in Australia. Practically all the works on exhibition are privately owned by The Duldig Studio - Museum and Arts Resource Centre in Melbourne. The exhibition includes stone, bronze and clay sculptures together with selected examples of Duldig’s drawings, as well as original photos and documents. Under the direction of the Jewish Museum Vienna, the exhibition will subsequently be shown at the International Culture Centre in Krakow and the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.
Curator: Peter Stasny
The Gallery Miethke. A Pioneering Art House
November 19, 2003 to February 8, 2004
On 18 November the Jewish Museum celebrates the 10th anniversary of the opening of its exhibition rooms at Palais Eskeles. On the occasion of this anniversary the museum presents a show dealing with an important chapter of the history of the house: the Gallery Miethke, which was located at the palais at the beginning of the 20th century and was famous for its spectacular exhibitions on contemporary art.
In 1861 Hugo Hermann Werner Ottomar Miethke, born in 1834 in Potsdam, founded the book and art company “Miethke & Wawra“. He soon establishes himself as the most important dealer of the Viennese historical painter Hans Makart and gains reputation as a gallery of Past Masters. In 1895 Miethke crowns his successful professional career as an art dealer by acquiring Palais Eskeles located in Dorotheergasse no. 11. On the ground floor contemporary art is presented while the first floor is dedicated to Past Masters. The selling of the gallery, which had been owned by Miethke for 40 years, to Paul Bacher, a jeweller and friend of Gustav Klimt, causes a sensation.
Under the new artistic director Carl Moll the gallery makes itself a name as the leading gallery for avant-garde art in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy by frequently showing works of French Modernist painters such as Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. Gustav Klimt is exclusively represented by Miethke, Egon Schiele’s first solo exhibition was on view in the gallery and also the Wiener Werkstätte was for the first time presented to the Viennese public by Gallery Miethke. In 1912 art historian Hugo Haberfeld, a native of Galicia, takes over the management of the gallery. The highlight of his activities as director is an outstanding solo exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso in 1914. This singular exhibition has been largely forgotten today, as have many of the gallery’s other activities. As a Jew Hugo Haberfeld had to leave Austria in 1938 and emigrated to Paris with his family; what became of him is not known.
Curator: Tobias G. Natter
Kosher Nostra – History of Jewish Gangsters in America 1890 - 1980
December 3, 2003 to April 25, 2004
The history of organised crime in the United States was greatly influenced by Jews. The widely spread myth, especially in Europe, of the predominating Italian Mafia largely concealed the fact that gangsters of Jewish origin had a considerable share in this sinister chapter of the American history. Anybody trying his hand in tracing the history of the American Mafia cannot negate the existence of men such as Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy“ Siegel, Dutch Schultz or Louis “Lepke“ Buchalter who had a determining influence on the doings of the underworld – besides the classic Sicilian “Godfathers“.
In his latest art installation “History of Jewish Gangsters in America“ the artist Oz Almog goes beyond his usual portrayal of people in pictures and words by creating the impressive documentary summary of an entire epoch, both fascinating and deterrent. Without any romanticising tendency and with the perspicacity of an uncoverer the artist deals with this unpleasant part of Jewish history and examines the different actors with all their contradictions: for instance Samuel “Red“ Levine was a cold-blooded contract killer, who was a strict orthodox Jew. Then there was the merciless syndicate boss Louis “Lepke“ Buchalter, who loved his mother more than anything, and was therefore truly respected by the traditionally family-oriented Sicilians. Or the strategic genius Meyer Lansky, who was not only involved in sinister business, but - being proud of his Jewish origin - always supported the concerns of his people.
With this story consisting of painted portraits and detailed texts Oz Almog does not want to convey the image of a “clean war“, but also presents an oppressive picture of life and death in the underworld. With his art installation “him too?? A Chronical of a Cultural Obsession” (400 portraits of Jewish personalities, 1999) Oz Almog landed a mainstream hit, which was initially presented at the Jewish Museum Vienna and was subsequently on view in Israel, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Hungary. After his second installation “Towards the Light of Dawn – Heroes of the Soviet Union”, where Almog abandoned his principle to create art installations with paintings, he now prepares a provocative installation of paintings featuring prominent gangsters of Jewish origin, which will be accompanied by a documentation.
Curators: Oz Almog, Erich Metz