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Fritz Wotruba

Monuments, Sculpture and Politics

09 July 2015 to 17 January 2016
Belvedere 21Belvedere
Fritz Wotruba (1907–1975) numbers among the most important sculptors of the 20th century and is considered a “classic” of modern sculpture. He was intensely engaged with the social and political questions of his era, and he also addressed them in his work as an artist. More, he felt that art was a vehicle of enlightenment, with a mission to renew culture and society. These views led him to participate in high-profile projects for the erection of monuments, whereby he concentrated his efforts primarily on projects dedicated to the labour movement and to the victims of political violence, but also on memorials for artists.

Since antiquity, monuments, as focal points of public remembrance and commemoration, have employed the sculpture medium. Since the late 19th century, monumental sculpture in public space has been utilized to represent social and political ideas in ways that are able to communicate with the masses. This is the first exhibition to explore the significant role of monuments in Wotruba's work. Covering a time span stretching from the early 1930s into the 1970s, it presents 20 drawings and 18 sculptural designs in combination with extensive photo documentation.

To this day, many of Wotruba's monuments remain present in public space, among them the 1932 memorial Man Condemn War in Leoben, Styria and the 1969 monument for Richard Wagner in Mainz. And yet a significant number of his designs remained unrealized, in some cases because his uncompromising stance toward the brutality of war and the crimes of National Socialism were detrimental to his “success”. Wotruba was involved in one way or another in many of the central monument projects of his era, such as the Heroes' Memorial in Vienna in 1933/34 and the memorial To the Victims for a Free Austria in the Vienna Central Cemetery, and these have remained in public discourse until the present. This exhibition sheds light on the contexts in which the projects were planned and realized, documenting their reception and analyzing the aesthetic vision with which Fritz Wotruba approached them.

After 14 years, Wotruba's Large Figure Relief of 1957/58 returns to the site it occupied for decades. Originally the sculptor created this seven-part monumental relief for the Austrian pavilion at the 1958 World Expo in Brussels, designed by architect Karl Schwanzer. Later disassembled and rebuilt in the Vienna park “Schweizergarten”, the building was used between 1962 and 2001 as the Museum of the 20th Century, also known as the 20er Haus. During this period Wotruba's relief was displayed in the museum’s sculpture garden. Subsequently the space was renovated, expanded and reopened as the 21er Haus, the Belvedere's museum for contemporary art and also home of the Fritz Wotruba Foundation, which has returned the relief, on loan from the museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien, to its original site.

Curated by Gabriele Stöger-Spevak.