MUMOK: Vienna, Austria

MUMOK is within Vienna’s Museum Quartier and despite being a new building, is sympathetic to the palatial old architecture that surrounds it. Dedicated to modern art, it is large and airy with high ceilings and an enjoyably industrial feel to it – as concrete, glass, heavy aluminium doors, and interior mechanisms such as the lift shaft exposed to great effect. It spans 7 floors; three below ground and three additional levels allowing enough space for large free standing installations, no overcrowded wall hanging, and room for visitors to move freely. The ground floor exhibition ‘Always, Always, Others’ presents a diverse selection of works of classical modernism, and my personal favourites were Karl Wisum’s ‘Wooden Puppet in various materials’ and Freidl Dicker’s black and white photo collages. ‘Prosperous Poison’ took up the majority of the lower ground floors and was dedicated to post 1945 artworks arranged according to five key themes; ‘Alfombia’ a mixed media on photo-paper by Nora Aslan struck me as initially it looks like a Arabian carpet but on closer inspection is created from thousands of small photographic images. Likewise Katya Sander’s ‘Double Camera’ film provided an unusual immersive experience for visitors who could simultaneously witness both sides of an interview. The upper ground floors displayed ‘To expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer’ which questioned art and its social function from 1990 onwards. Bravely many of the pieces commented and indeed challenged museum curation; ‘Mining the Museum’ looked at Fred Wilson’s rearrangement of the Maryland Historical Society collection in Baltimore to bring to light forgotten aspects of Afro-American history including visitor responses to it, and Klaus Scherubeul’s project ‘Melvin’ imitated the mechanisms of professional reception and cannonisation of art by setting up a mock exhibition including invitations to an opening, a catalogue and curator talks – particularly pertinent given that it was on display within such an institution.

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