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Christian Mayer - Musis et Mulis


08 November 2013 to 23 February 2014
Palace Stables, Lower BelvedereBelvedere

An intervention by the Vienna-based artist Christian Mayer chronologically coinciding with the exhibition VIENNA 1450 - The Master of Lichtenstein Castle and his Time is about to open in the Belvedere’s Medieval Treasury. National and international artists have been invited since 2007 to respond to the museum’s collections, architecture, and history by conceiving specially developed works relating to the site. In the course of the preparations for VIENNA 1450, several panel paintings were removed from Prince Eugene’s former palace stables, situated right next to the Orangery. Originally accommodating his personal horses, they were transformed into a state-of-the-art study collection for some 150 objects of medieval religious art several years ago. The resulting gaps in the presentation prompted us to encourage an artist to deal with the place and its exhibits and make use of the temporary change in order to add new perspectives.
Musis et Mulis – to the muses and mules – was the tongue-in-cheek response of Berliners when Elector Frederick III established the Academy of Fine Arts in the upper storey of the Royal Stables in the early eighteenth century. By adopting this slogan, Christian Mayer refers to the various ways in which Prince Eugene’s stables were used over time, from palace stables to an exhibition space for the visual arts. Christian Mayer’s multi-part installation weaves together strands of time related to the Baroque room and its medieval exhibits and explores processes of cultural appropriation and musealization, as well as the (im)possibilities of preservation, authentic reconstruction, and symbolic revival. The artist systematically intervenes with this dense display of sacred images, exposing supporting structures made of wood or canvas that allude to the original function of the panels as two-sided altar wings that were separated around 1900 for the display in museums. Moreover, Christian Mayer has transferred wooden poles used in the early eighteenth century as subterranean supports for the Berlin Town Palace from their original constructive context into an art context by creating a sculptural ensemble. Finally, he visualizes symbolic and material transformations in a video that, in conjunction with the other parts of the installation, tells a spatial tale revolving around conservation and preservation, the battle against decay, disinfestation, and decomposition, as well as ephemerality.