Dentist, art lover, and a great host – Roberto Lhotka is an extraordinary Austro-Italian, who lives and works in Vienna. I met him at his gorgeous apartment to talk about Vienna, art and one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world, the Life Ball which he is co-organizing (on 25th of May, save the date!).
You are a dentist, a member of the Life Ball crew, and a member of the court at the Belvedere. You are doing so many things. How did you come to art?
Roberto: Art has always been my hobby and has always been in my family. When I was a kid I had a replica of the painting “Sonja Knips” by Klimt, which you can see now in the Belvedere, hanging on my wall. So I always looked at this painting – maybe that was one of the reasons. Also I often went to museums in Italy with my family. I guess that’s the origins of my interest.
Why do you participate in the organization of the Life Ball?
Roberto: The main reason is the charitable aim. In my youth a lot of my friends were dying from AIDS. There was no therapy. But now everything changed and the latest forecasts of life expectancy in people with HIV show that the average life expectancy of people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) is now very close to the national average.
For me, it is also a lot of fun to be part of this extraordinary event. For example, producing the poster for the Life Ball together with Pierre et Gilles and the American model Tony Ward. Of course, it is also work: selling the tables, inviting celebrities… We have to find enough celebrities in order that people get curious.
Are celebrities excited to come to Vienna?
Roberto: Sure. Many of them, like Bill Clinton, Elton John, Cheryl Stone or Eva Longoria visited Vienna for the first time upon our invitation and liked it… Some of them will come again this year. Worldwide, people are becoming more interested in Vienna. Also it is getting more and more touristic here. This is also a problem. The main issues are Mozart, the waltzes, and Sissi. But Vienna is more than that.
Where is the best place to find contemporary art in Vienna?
Roberto: If you want to see contemporary art you should go to the Academy of Fine Arts and meet some young artists. I made an exhibition with a photography class about five years ago in my office. The students were really enthusiastic and wanted to show their ideas. Francesca von Habsburg curated this exhibition. It was a big success, and we sold almost everything. Many of these young artists are still my friends.
Can you name some young artists who Austria should be proud of?
Roberto: Norbert Brunner, for example – he is becoming more and more famous valuable.
Best place to waste time in Vienna?
Roberto: In summer you should go to the Donauinsel to swim and relax. In winter any coffee house. My favorite is Bräunerhof.
Where is the best place to meet friends?
Roberto: I like to organize parties here at my place. But when I go out, it is Tanzcafé Jenseits in the Nelkengasse. It used to be a brothel. Now it’s a rather bizarre club. What else? There’s the Loos bar, for example, you can always go there. Now it is totally full. In two years it will once again be totally empty, like it was two years ago. Interesting how quick things are changing.
Where do you go shopping for clothes?
Roberto: I have my tailors and designers, Peter Weisz and Thomas Kirchgrabner. I also go to Song. I like Vivienne Westwood and Missoni, who are friends of mine. It is always the same – I only go to the people I know.
Where would you go for a lunch?
Roberto: Hollmann Salon in the first district or Café Bloom – it’s a new one – you can go to Do & Co if you want… If you have time and love meat – I would recommend a restaurant called “Zum Finsteren Stern”, it’s really good.
Best souvenir from Vienna?
Roberto: Little boxes of chocolate from Altmann & Kühne. They are the best. Everyone goes crazy when I bring it. This is one of those things that should never be missed in Vienna.
What is your favorite building in Vienna?
Roberto: The Belvedere and the story behind it. Back then it was built outside the city walls. Prince Eugene came along and said that there is no danger anymore in Austria. And for his life he was right.
What is the sound of Vienna?
Roberto: Birds. They are not afraid of people here. So I always have to close the window because otherwise they would come inside and steal my lunch.
What is the aroma of Vienna?
Roberto: Coffee, cakes. Sugar cake… Vienna looks a bit like a sugar cake in the meanwhile because everything is so clean and beautiful in the city. When I came here 20 years ago, it was different, gray. And now they have renovated the whole city.
I love Vienna for…
Roberto: For beauty, changing seasons, security… that you can’t see the social “gaps” so much. Rich people don’t show off. Everyone talks to everyone, that’s what I really like.
Don’t miss the 21st Life Ball. These are the events for the next week:
Friday, 24 May 2013
The Red Ribbon Celebration Concert will be held for the second time in the Burgtheater – this year with opera stars like Anna Netrebko and Erwin Schrott. Hollywood actress Eva Longoria and a lot of national actors will give short readings. On the same day, Cavalli is opening his new flagship store in Vienna in the Goldenes Quartier on the Tuchlauben.
Saturday, 25 May 2013
AIDS Solidarity Gala at 4:30 pm hosted by UNAIDS and AIDS LIFE
Within the 21st Life Ball and prior to the Opening Show, AIDS LIFE and UNAIDS host an exclusive Gala in the Viennese Hofburg Palace. Its 350 guests can expect a live auction of selected and unique auction items and special musical performances from the Italian star bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo with piano accompaniment by Maestro Omer Meir Wellber or the electronic-soul-duo Quadron.
The Life Ball Opening 2013 from 7.30 p.m.
Each year, the opening ceremony attracts more thousands of visitors as well as 500 national and international media representatives to Vienna´s City Hall Square, where everybody can experience the big show on the Red Ribbon stage live and for free. Following the 2-hour-opening show on City Hall Square, the jamboree starts inside the city hall for 3,780 holders of Life Ball tickets. Many halls and yards of this historical building open up for guests, indulging them with an iridescent show comprising live concerts of national and international stars, exciting performances and culinary surprises until 5 o’clock in the morning.
Life Ball 2013 is dedicated to “1001 Nights”
“Saving lives with imagination” is the link between Life Ball 2013 and its entertaining yet sensual source of inspiration: “1001 Nights”
Speeches by: William J. Clinton, Michael Häupl, Greg Louganis, Sir Elton John, Gery Keszler, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Fergie
LIFE BALL Song – “Love wins over Glamour” by Adam Lambert. Music Act: Azealia Banks, Erwin Schrott, Special Appearance, Barbara Eden, Melanie Griffith, Eva Longoria
LIFE BALL Fashion Show hosted by Roberto Cavalli. Celebritiy Models: Nieves Alvarez, Nadège Dubospertus, Isabeli Fontana, Birte Glang, Lydia Hearst, Sonja Kirchberger, Karolína Kurková, Tereza Maxova, Sara Nuru, Eva Padberg,Eva Riccobono, Nicoletta Romanoff, Anja Rubik
Conception opening show: Gery Keszler, Direction: Giorgio Madia, Christiane Lutz. Choreography: Giorgia Madia. Artistic production: Teresa Lehner/Life Ball. Musical direction: Werner Stranka, Martin Gellner. Orchestra: Ensemble Wien Klang, conducted by Azis Sadikovic.
The Life Ball is one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world. The aim: to help affected people in an extraordinary way and to fight against the taboo status of HIV/AIDS in our society. Therefore, Life Ball is an exuberant festivity that year after year celebrates life and makes a loud and sounding statement in the fight against HIV and AIDS – resounding across the boundaries of Vienna and Austria.