Location: 21er Haus
The 21er Haus courtyard showcases various pieces by internationally acclaimed artists who work mainly in Austria. These displays are centered around Heimo Zobernig’s plinth project. Attuned to the architecture, the plinths were first used to present works by Franz West in 2012. Currently they are displaying many works from the Belvedere’s collection from the 1950s and 1960s. In other words, these are pieces dating from the early days of the 21er Haus’ predecessor, the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts.
The building reflects its original designation as an exhibition pavilion, designed for the Brussels Expo in 1958 and later transferred to Vienna where it assumed a new role as a museum of twentieth-century art. The Sculpture Garden was an essential part of the museum right from the start and Werner Hofmann, founding director of the 20er Haus, had the outside area redesigned into an integral part of the museum architecture echoing the ideals of Neues Bauen, the modernist movement in German architecture in the 1920s and 1930s.
The architect Karl Schwanzer had then envisaged the Sculpture Garden as a romantic, organic natural space contrasting with the museum as a cultural space. Hofmann chose to model it on the Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which was also based on the modernist principles of an architectonic outside space.
Schwanzer was influenced by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion of 1929 with its water basin and all-embracing architectural concept that integrates sculpture into the outside area. In this amassing of 1960s’ sculptures by various artists, Heimo Zobernig alludes to the ideas underlying the modernist exhibition pavilion and to the debate about the interplay between art and architecture at that time. In a manner resembling a glyptotheque, Austrian sculptures are thus gathered in the 21er Haus courtyard as exemplary showpieces with a historical reference.
In Heimo Zobernig’s art there appears to be an interesting connection between the first sculpture project featuring pieces by Franz West – Patio, Scultura, Basamento: West, Schwanzer, Zobernig that explored the relationship between architecture and sculpture in the twentieth century – and Zobernig’s current work for the Biennale di Venezia. In Venice, Zobernig’s sculptural intervention contrasts Josef Hoffmann’s pavilion with the modernist ideas of Neues Bauen from the early 1920s. The theoretical examination of the relationship between art and architecture by Penelope Cruz was the starting point for this exciting project with Heimo Zobernig. The sculptures to be exhibited on the five plinths this year were selected by the artist himself in close collaboration with curator Harald Krejci.
In addition to the Zobernig plinths, the displays include further works that can also be read within the context of the museum. Lois Weinberger, for instance, plays with the idea of the pure exhibition space as a blank slate to be filled with meaning. His Wild Cube critiques the early twentieth-century ideas of “art for art’s sake”. Leopold Kessler’s Ghost Garden has been stripped of all its roles but can be used nevertheless, and it is the viewers’ actions alone that reinvest it with meaning. The artist group Gelatin’s Weltwunder (Wonder of the World) is also based on participation, as the experience of the artwork can only be expanded through the viewer’s involvement. All of these works pose the question of whether a sculpture can be interpreted through its form alone. How do we address art in the twenty-first century? In this sense, the Sculpture Garden attempts to provoke a new view of art.
The sculpture garden is closed when the weather conditions are severe.