For those of us who do not ski, attend balls, or cycle between the tedious epidemic of pop-up stores and flea markets plaguing Vienna, making weekends in January and the first half of February interesting requires substantial inspiration.
While watching The Woman in Gold one evening, in particular for the Vienna scenes, it occurred to us that we have perhaps walked past the Bloch-Bauer home at some point. With that as a starting point…
The Bloch-Bauer home was taken and used as administration offices for the German Reichsbahn from 1938 to 1945; now the home is now under monument protection.
The painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer or The Woman in Gold (as it was renamed by the Nazis so as not to reference a Jewish family) now resides in a private NYC museum after having been returned to Adele’s niece, Maria Altman. (Photo courtesy of the Internet)
Looking deep into the museum list on a particularly cold Sunday, Tony and I set out for Secession, the fraternity house of the Viennese art rebels, most notably Gustav Klimt. Until this weekend, we had never been inside the art nouveau building with the topper straight from a Raffaello candy. To be honest, I don’t think we’ll venture inside again anytime soon.
Our purpose was to see the, “Beethoven Frieze,” painted by Klimt himself on the concrete. Because the work is fragile no photos are permitted; this is from the museum website.
The Frieze was only to be temporary when painted in 1901. In 1903 an art collector purchased the work, later selling it to a prominent Jewish family, the Lederer’s, of Vienna. Then, 1938.
After the war the piece was “returned” to the Lederer family’s son Erich. Except, Austria instituted an export ban, prohibiting the art to be moved to Erich’s residence in Switzerland. Eventually, out of resources (he was required to pay rent on the storage of the art) and becoming frustrated, Erich sold the art to the Republic of Austria in 1973. Heirs filed a claim in 2013 for the art that was denied by a government art restitution council in 2015.
Since 1986, the complete work, spanning 112 feet and weighing more than 4 tons, sits in a specially designed and climate controlled gallery at Secession, with a plaque mentioning that the family foundation had donated the climate control in memory of Erich Lederer, “owner of the Frieze until its sale to the Republic of Austria in 1973.”
Since we were at the museum we also took in the temporary exhibit.
No, this is not a random snap from my iPhone. The knotted rope hanging from the ceiling was apparently part of the exhibit. Okay, then.
Honestly, we were rather glad that Secession was included on the Niederösterreich Card, and so we did not directly hand over €9,50 each to see the Beethoven Frieze. If there had been no export ban, the piece might still belong to the Lederer Family, and perhaps Secession curators would have to work a little harder to draw visitors with something more than a knotted rope.
Finally, The Hare with Amber Eyes. As part of a series at the art history museum of personally curated exhibits, the author of the best-selling book put together an exhibit having nothing to do with the pretty little netsuke that I attended with my art group, though the hare commanded attention outside of the gallery. As usual, our guide made sense out of what would otherwise not make sense to me, and I returned with Tony to be his personal guide.
For those not familiar, the story traces the history of the family and their collection of netsuke, small Japanese porcelain figures that were hidden from the Nazis who took over the palais. The palais was heavily destroyed during the war; scattered family members reclaimed the property but could not bring themselves to reside there, so it was sold and is now one of the many stylish office buildings lining Vienna’s Ringstraße.
As for the netsuke, the collection now resides privately with Edmund de Waal in London.