#contemporaryvienna / People

Independent Austrian Curators

Meet six independent curators and find out about about their practice, the pros and cons of working in Austria, and what makes Austrian artists different.

Cornelis van Almsick

Cornelis van Almsick, born 1978 in Berlin, lives and works in Vienna. In 2014 he curated “Seduce Me At Sunrise” at LEHRTER SIEBZEHN, Berlin, and “The Faintest Idea” at OBEN, Vienna. Together with Katarzyna Uszynska he curated a show “Hoch Hinaus! daleko w góre!” at Neuer Kunstverein Wien, and “Die Eigenheit der Dinge” at FRANZ JOSEFS KAI 3, Vienna. In 2013 he curated Wolfgang Lehrners solo show “VIE CEE” at FRANZ JOSEFS KAI 3 (BAWAG PSK Contemporary), Vienna, “(Of Lines, Planes, Surfaces, or Objects)…” at PARALLEL, Vienna, “Real Naturally”, a group show at Kunsthalle Hotel Eurocenter, Lana, Italy, “Do You Do Color”, at ImErsten, Vienna, and “The Cosmopolitan and the Confidential”, a group show at f6, Vienna. In 2012 he organized with Daniel Haider (VACANT GALLERIES) the show “SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT” – Die Sammlung Leni und Sofie P., curated by Elsa König, at Neustiftgasse 107, Vienna, and other projects. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent curator in Austria?
So far I have not had any disadvantages. It has been going well for me; artists and institutions have been very helpful in supporting me with my work. I could not be more happy to have started curating in Austria! At first everybody is reserved, but once you get to know people it could not be more amiable.

What kind of art interests you? What draws your attention?
Definitely I have a passion for minimal/post-minimal art. Apart from that I am open to different media or art forms. Most importantly the work needs to surprise me, and along the line it must implicate a degree of diversity and intelligence. In my opinion, these artists will stand the test of time.

What makes Austrian contemporary artists different?
I presume that you can find great art elsewhere in Europe, it is just a matter of time and accessibility. What sets the Austrian art scene apart from the rest of Europe is its art-friendly environment and its accessibility due to its size. It has family-like structures. Somewhat like a big patchwork family with all the ingredients to make a wonderful soap opera – love, greed, darkness, pain, intrigue, fun, and pleasure… and I guess the end is a happy one!

 

Victoria Dejaco

Victoria Dejaco

Victoria Dejaco studied art history in Vienna and Paris. After internships at Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris and the Generali Foundation in Vienna, she initiated Hallway Gallery in 2011, an exhibition off-space that hosted 20 shows in its three years of running time. 2011–2013 she worked for Galerie Emanuel Layr in Vienna. Since the end 2013 she has been a curatorial assistant at the Grazer Kunstverein and works in advertising for May Magazine, Paris.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent curator in Austria?
The advantage of any independent curator wherever is being free to choose who you work with. Following your instincts and passions. I can say that particularly in Vienna it is easy to collaborate with young artists because the Academy and University of Applied Arts are so present and accessible. One can easily get in touch with artists, especially through the big network of off-spaces in town. A disadvantage is, of course, that it proves to be harder to make a living as an independent curator. Austria was one of the last good places for publicly-funded independent projects, but that has started to change now, a lot of budget has been cut lately.

What kind of art interests you? What draws your attention?
I come from a background in conceptual art on the border of language and art, at least that’s what I wrote my thesis about: Mallarmé, Broodthaers, Ruscha… My focus is maybe a little more inclined toward this aesthetic, but it has been shaped a lot by my experience in exhibition making with the young scene in Vienna, the Zobernig students, the Reither (Gelitin) students, a generation of young Norwegians who found their way to Vienna and have an interesting common ground… I wouldn’t know how to explain that… aesthetic? It’s less specific and more specific at the same time. Anyway, I am always most alert when I come across something that I have not seen before. Like sculptural painting hanging from the ceiling. That was my last Hallway exhibition in Vienna in December 2013.

What makes Austrian contemporary artists different?
I don’t know if I have the expertise to pinpoint this. If I had to, I would reckon there is a reason why Viennese Actionism happened in Austria and that this (or the reasons for its existence) still influences the local art world. I am not sure if Gelitin could have evolved in the way they did anywhere else.

Ursula Maria Probst

Ursula Maria Probst

 

Ursula Maria Probst lives and works in Vienna. Among other things she lectures at the University of Art and Design Linz, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and at the conference Kunst Stadt Berlin. Ursula is an art critic (Kunstforum InternationalSpikeModern PaintersdériveartmagazineUmelecSpringerinStandard), writes catalog texts for artists, the co-initiator of the collective Female Obsession, and makes DJ performances. The list of her projects includes Fluc WienVienna Art WeekKunstraum Niederösterreichk/hausWien, projects for KÖRKunst im öffentlichen Raum NÖ, and EuropART. She participated in Invisible Play, Istanbul. Her work as a curator includes: Predicting Memories (with Robert Punkenhofer), Vienna Art Week; Andere Blicke, andere Räume, k/haus Wien; Projekt 012, Ve:sch Vienna; In der Kubatur des Kabinetts, Fluc Vienna; Jadwiga Sawicka, KÖR Wien; Reflecting Reality (with Robert Punkenhofer), Sigmund Freud Museum; Mit uns ist kein (National) Staat zu machen (with Walter Seidl), Kunstraum NÖ; Crossing Limits, Art in Urban Transitions, Vienna Art Week; STATUS QUO VADIS, Kunst im öffentlichen Raum NÖ; Melk In Passing 1-16, k/haus Wien (to be continued); Urban Signs – Local Strategies, Kunst im öffentlichen Raum (with Martin Wagner and Walter Seidl); Art mapping 1-2, Fluc Vienna; EuropART (with Walter Seidl); The Sound of your Eyes k/haus Wien; Born to be a Star, k/haus Wien.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent curator in Austria?
I really love to work as independent curator, to act as the initiator or author of project-based presentations, to produce new curatorial concepts, to experiment with the relations of context, displays, and interdisciplinarity. For me the curatorial practice is an artistic act. I am part of an ever-changing fluid process. The advantage of being an independent curator in Austria is that there are not so many independent curators; most of them prefer to work for institutions or museums. I’m very grateful for the fact that I can afford my lifestyle. In my curatorial practice I switch between institutions like Kunstraum NÖ, Künstlerhaus, KÖR, Public Art, Vienna Art Week, projects for the government, or Gallery Krinzinger and artist-run spaces like FLUC, Ve:sch, Kulturdrogerie, or Pinacotheca. There aren’t so many disadvantages, but one is in the fact that I often have to deal with low or no budget situations. Often the runners of project spaces, who also receive support from the government, think that curatorial work is for free. I’m currently in the middle of a discussion about these conditions with the artspace SUPER, where I curated the exhibition A LOSS OF CONTROL.

What kind of art interests you? What draws your attention?
I am very interested in art in public spaces. On May 13, 2014 we presented our publication “FLUC. TANZ DIE UTOPIE! / DANCE THE UTOPIA!” (Falter Verlag/Edition) in which we talked about urban activism as an experienced experiment in the Vienna art, music, and club scene. Fluc is an artist-run project space and club at Vienna Praterstern, built by the architect Klaus Stattmann. In twelve years we have done together with Walter Seidl 150 art projects. I am also a board member of Public Art/NÖ now. My main focus is on women art and on gender-political issues. I am also an art historian; I wrote my thesis on Louise Bourgeois. I visited her studio several times in New York and at her house to work with her. My main topics in institutional exhibitions and in public art have mainly been female issues in post feminist terms.
What makes Austrian contemporary artists different?
At the moment Vienna is a meeting point for artists from different European countries and also for artists from Israel, Turkey, or USA. But I will try to summarize the main characteristics of Austrian contemporary artists:
1. They have broad knowledge about art history and international contemporary art.
2. There is a long tradition in performance art and activism, in gender political topics; at the moment there are a lot of projects with a performative art aspect, addressing various questions of sexuality, freedom of expression, autonomy, sociopolitical issues, the production of space, art political interrelations, and individual approaches in gender politics.
3. There are high standards for concepts, display situation, material and political issues.
4. For Austrian contemporary artists it is important to create new aesthetics for expressing political impacts and to find new methods of working with painting, installation, sculpture, photographs, media art, or the Internet.
5. Austrian contemporary artists are very interested in making their project spaces visible to public.
6. They develop new concepts that include public participation in urban dynamics.
7. Artists themselves act as curators.

 

Katharina Maria Zimmer and Isabella Anna-Maria Ritter

Ursula Maria Probst

Photo: Philipp Draxler.

In August 2013 Katharina Maria Zimmer and Isabella Anna-Maria Ritter founded Fanny, Berta, a project space based in Vienna in the spirit of Viennese salon culture. By hosting different events, exhibitions, performances, talks, and concerts, Fanny, Berta acts as a framework for contemporary cultural engagement. The project is currently located at Atelier Julius Caesar and hosts exhibitions in different international locations. Recent exhibitions include “The Salon is A Living Room” (June 3–30 at Atelier Julius Caesar, Vienna) and “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (Opening September 20 at Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being independent curators in Austria?
We wouldn’t call ourselves curators. The term has become empty, mostly because of its inflationary use in the last couple of years. It works like a title that is given to someone by an outside framework, but it doesn’t really make any sense to use it as a description of what we do. We would rather just define ourselves as art historians. In a way we are screening contemporary issues and trying to detect their effects on art and within the market as well. Vienna, actually, is a great place to do this. It has a good infrastructure on every level, rents are comparably cheap, and the art schools have managed to broaden their networks by appointing internationally well-recognized artists to teach classes. A lot of young, international artists have started to realize that and have relocated to Vienna. We both have lived in other cities, which are known for their vibrant art scenes, but these places have become over saturated and expensive. As a result, the next generation of young artists has moved somewhere else. At the moment Vienna is the perfect home base for us.

What kind of art interests you? What draws your attention?
It’s difficult to answer this question without sounding tacky or vague to the extent of meaninglessness. Basically you know what is interesting when you see it. If we have to make some description of criteria it would be the flawless use of the means – in terms of the formal as well as content-related ways necessary to express an idea today. At the moment we are fascinated by the multifaceted use of the Internet’s mechanisms in art and the virtual space as part of expressing contemporary reality.

What makes Austrian contemporary artists different ?
Due to the country’s size and location Austrian artists are naturally committed to a larger network beyond just a national one. Vienna has a very international art market on a very intimate scale. Even though the art world has its local specificities (thinking of Spain, France, or China, for example), we think that through new media and its character of sharing, information is evenly distributed almost everywhere in the world nowadays. We all share the possibility of awareness – we can know what someone else is doing at exactly this moment in a different country or even continent if we want to.

Katharina Schendl

Katharina Schendl Photo credit: Irina Gavrich

Photo credit: Irina Gavrich

Katharina Schendl studied architecture in Vienna and Los Angeles and curating in Zurich. She has worked with artists Peter Kogler, Hans Schabus, and Six&Petritsch, among others on international exhibitions and projects. She gained institutional experience working at mumok for the last five years. Parallel to that she has launched her independent curatorial projects, such as the 2005 Balkongalerie (Ljubljana), a semi-public space that focused on emerging artists like Ana Prvacki. From there she developed her most recent project, the international artist collaboration experiment MAKE.A.MATCH. In 2014 she curated exhibitions with Hugo Canoilas+Jannis Varleas and Julius von Bismarck+Julian Charriere in Vienna; upcoming is an installation with Ruth Proctor+Barbara Signer.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent curator in Austria?
It’s a one-man show.
What kind of art interests you? What draws your attention?
Unknown artists.
What makes Austrian contemporary artists different?
Vienna is the city of Freud.

 

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