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Phenomenal Institution! Rosemarie Schwarzwälder

Our film series with outstanding and charismatic women in art proceeds. Watch our video interview with the Grande Dame of the international gallery scene: Rosemarie Schwarzwälder.

Klimt, Schiele, Rainer Judd, Wurm, Beuys, Flavin… Here the avant-garde of their time were at home: in the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Viennawhich today is run by Rosemarie Schwarzwälder. A phenomenal institution that was managed in the 50s by the Catholic priest (!) Otto Mauer and later acquired by Oswald Oberhuber, Austrian artist and legendary director of the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. Oberhuber was the later husband of Rosmarie Schwarzwälder. (Their son Nikolaus Oberhuber runs the KOW gallery in Berlin today).

The New Contemporary met Schwarzwälder at her gallery’s place in the Grünangergasse right beside the famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral – hence the name Galerie nächst St. Stephan, which means “next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral”. She told us some anecdotes about the gallery, how terrible conservative Vienna was in former times, and gives us an insight into the gallery scene …

The story of the gallery goes back to the 1920s when Otto Kallir founded the Neue Galerie Wien (New Gallery Vienna) to show modern art by the likes of Piet Mondrian and Max Beckmann but also Austrian artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Alfred Kubin. Due to World War II he went to New York where he continued his work by founding the St. Etienne Gallery.

From 1954 on, the Catholic priest Otto Mauer managed the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Vienna. After World War II the cultural climate in Vienna and Austria was very conservative. All the more uncommon that the most innovative gallery supporting and showcasing the avant-garde was run by a Catholic priest. Artists like Maria Lassnig, Arnulf Rainer, and Oswald Oberhuber were presented, which provided an impetus. He hosted legendary exhibitions in the 1970s with artists like Joseph Beuys, Markus Prachensky, and Peter Weibel. Back then, as there was not that much money involved, the exhibitions were more informal. Schwarzwälder remembers that “the commercialization started with the art fairs. This happened around 1982.”

An exhibition of Fred Sandback in 1973 inspired Rosemarie Schwarzwälder’s approach to contemporary art. A colorful thread was strung across the room from left to right, parting the room. “It was wonderful to realize that you can make art in such a reduced manner!” When she was asked to take over the gallery, she knew that she had “arrived”.

The list of exhibitions is long and impressive: Sigmar Polke, Erwin Wurm, Donald Judd, Imi Knoebel, Dan Flavin, Brigitte Kowanz, and on and on…

Don’t miss the current exhibition:

Isa Melsheimer – Plant Hunters until April 27, 2013.

read more:

“Avantgarde In Vienna – The history of Gallerie nächst St. Stephan 1954–1982” by Robert Fleck (1982)

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