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.

For more information visit their website


Berlinishe Gallerie: Berlin, Germany

The Berlinische Gallerie (or Museum of Modern Art in Berlin) is housed in a former 1950’s glass factory and opened as a museum in 2004. Whilst the upstairs galleries showcase German art from the late 19th century Wilhelmine era through to the post war art of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, it was the ground floor exhibition ‘Radically Modern’ examining Berlin’s architecture that really grabbed my attention. The show comprises 300 architectural drawings, photographs, models, collages and aerial shots thoughtfully displayed flat on the floor allowing visitors to experience the sensation of seeing the city from above. Beginning in 1950 and taking a loosely chronological approach, it discusses the post-war boom in construction and architectures’ heavy links with politics; most poignant in the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961. Initiated by a deliberate move away from “the megalomaniac planning under the Nazi dictatorship” it looks at subsequent differences between the Easts’ neo-classical style to try and emphasise the confidence of the new state, versus the Wests’ re-appropriation of 1920’s avant-garde styles. Particular points of interest for me were the desire to destroy rather than preserve older buildings, though two key exceptions can be seen in The Reichstag and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial chapel. I also enjoyed viewing the construction of the Television Tower which continues to dominate the skyline, as well as city planners’ visions for reunification including a 1960’s Berlin as a “city on electronically operated conveyor belts” and a collage of the “Socialist City Model” seeing city dwellers relaxing by a pool in front of their uniform blocks of flats. In many ways it is a relief that architecture is no longer as explicit a political tool, however this exhibition did highlight modern architects’ reluctance for self-expression and to push boundaries creating their own utopian visions, but today seem more driven by economics instead.

For more information visit their website