Vienna’s art scene gathers pace, from auctions to Wes Anderson’s curatorial debut

The main exhibition hall in Palais Doretheum
(Image credit: Courtesy of Dorotheum)

Where in Vienna can you see Andy Warhol, Lucio Fontana and Maria Lassnig under one roof? At the palatial headquarters of Dorotheum, where a series of sales will take place from 27-29 November with a focus on contemporary and modern art. More than 500 works are on offer, spanning 20th-century international and Austrian art as well as watches and jewellery. Dorotheum’s auction evenings cap off a buzzing period for the city with Vienna Art Week recently coming to a close – but the action isn’t over just yet.

The centuries-old European auction house first initiated Vienna Art Week in 2005 with the aim of boosting the Austrian capital’s flourishing art scene onto an international stage. It has since acquired a life of its own, with numerous independent art spaces, galleries, museums and academies taking part in the annual event. And while other cities are gripped with end-of-year lethargy, Vienna is seemingly energised by the frost (the glühwein and Sachertorte certainly help). Many of the exhibitions in the festival’s programme extend into the new year, continuing to attract crowd numbers akin to summer showcases.

Installation view of ‘Spitzmaus in a Coffin

Installation view of ‘Spitzmaus in a Coffin and Other Treasures’ at Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. 

(Image credit: © KHM-Museumsverband)

At the Kunsthistorisches Museum, filmmaker Wes Anderson and his partner, the writer and illustrator Juman Malouf, have combed through the institution’s vast historical collection to assemble more than 400 objects into various themed rooms – think ‘miniatures’ or ‘green’. From emu eggs to Spanish powdered wig boxes, the pair’s cabinet of curiosities has all the aesthetic trappings of an Anderson film, with each object’s placement treated with studied care in bespoke display cases upholstered in Kvadrat textiles. (This is the third and latest instalment in an ongoing series of collaborations between the Viennese museum and renowned artists, which has previously seen curatorial efforts by Ed Ruscha and Edmund de Waal.)

Over at MAK (Museum of Applied Arts), graphic designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh have transformed the historical venue into a multimedia investigation into beauty. The interactive exhibition invites visitors to ponder on this very broad notion through graphic design, product design, architecture, and city planning. Elsewhere, Olafur Eliasson’s permanent installation Yellow Fog transforms the façade of the Verbund-Gebäudes each night after dusk, while Mumok in the MuseumsQuartier is staging an intriguing photography exhibition tracing major political events in Vienna over the past century.

Color Room, 2018, by Sagmeister & Walsh

Color Room, 2018, by Sagmeister & Walsh, installation view at MAK. Courtesy of MAK

(Image credit: Aslan Kudrnofsky)

In the wealth of time, 2012, by Andrea Withmann

In the wealth of time, 2012, by Andrea Withmann, on view at Kunsthaus Wien. © The artist. Courtesy of Vienna Art Week

(Image credit: © The artist. Courtesy of Vienna Art Week)

OUR FLAG (reverse), 2018, by Ed Ruscha

OUR FLAG (reverse), 2018, by Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of Vienna Art Week

(Image credit: Sophie Thun)

Ac Kunsthalle Antarktika Foto Istock Com Bernhard Staehli

Antarctica, by Bernhard Staehli. 

(Image credit: Courtesy of Vienna Art Week)


Dorotheum Auction Week runs from 27-30 November at Palais Dorotheum; ‘Spitzmaus in a Coffin and Other Treasures’ is on view until 28 April 2019 at Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien; ‘Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty’ is on view until 31 March 2019 at MAK; and ‘Photo / Politics / Austria’ is on view until 3 February 2019 at Mumok. For more information, visit the Vienna Art Week website and Dorotheum website