Vienna is a busy, active city, with many interesting things happening! After a few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that like Rome, it will take many more visits to explore the city properly. I’m letting go of any expectation that uncovering Vienna’s history, secrets, and treasures during a one-month stay will happen – maybe, if returning to my 20s again were possible. Based on your interests and timeframe, The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Vienna is a good start but requires determination and fortitude and will keep most people on their toes and feet :).
Since reservations are necessary for most events, you have to plan in advance. It’s amazing how quickly attractions are “sold out”. I’ve booked daytrips, palace tours, concerts, and gallery exhibitions. In September, visitors flock to Vienna for a variety of popular activities. Vienna symphony, ballet, opera, theatre, and cabarets are exploding with sought-after performances.
When compared to Eastern European cities like Belgrade, Budapest, Bucharest, Prague, and Zagreb, Vienna performing arts are much more expensive. In Vienna, the location and ambience of the event is almost as spectacular as the performance itself. I succeeded in booking a few performances, including what might have been the last seat in the house for a “new” production of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), at the Vienna State Opera House.
Guess I got spoiled by the inexpensive, yet incredibly high-quality performing arts in Eastern Europe. As with most European cities, theatre performances in Vienna are in the local Austrian-German language. There are several excellent plays being performed – Shakespeare, Albee, Ibsen – but since I don’t speak German…
Albertina History and Exhibitions
The Albertina was established in 1805. The beautiful building, an example of Viennese historicist architecture, has experienced changes in government, survived bombings, and endured refurbishment and modernization. I spent over four hours enjoying the museum exhibitions, especially art from the Modernist, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist periods.
Many of the artists exhibited were new to me, including Oskar Kokoschka, Albin Egger-Lienz, and most Austrian avant-garde masters. Russian artists Natalia Goncharova, Karimir Malevich, and Marc Chagall were also new names. I spent most of my time viewing the Monet to Picasso and Basquiat exhibitions. Eclectic, expressive faces in the crowd were almost as interesting as the art!
Monet to Picasso
The permanent Monet to Picasso Batliner Collection is outstanding. It includes works by master artists Degas, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and others. Expressionists included Austrians and interesting German groups like Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.
The “New Objectivity” display includes works by Wacker, Sedlacek, and Hofer – style and artists new to me. The Picasso exhibition encompassed the many “periods” of his work, including his early Cubist paintings, “mature period of the 1940s,” prints that have “not yet been exhibited,” and paintings from his “experimental late period”. I love Picasso and thought every painting on display was breathtaking!
Batliner, Forberg, and Djerassi Collection
Many classical modernist paintings in the Albertina’s extensive holdings come from the Batliner, Forberg, and Djerassi Collection. The paintings provide an “overview of the most interesting chapters of 130 years of art history unique to Austria”.
In June 2019, Herbert Batliner, known as “one of the greatest art collectors and patrons of our time,” passed away at the age of 90. In 2000, he “donated Propter Homines Hall to the Albertina, in which the museum has shown all major exhibitions from Dürer to Raphael to Vincent van Gogh”. Other art patrons have also donated valuable art to the Albertina, “resulting in one of the world’s most important collections of Modernist paintings”.
The Retrospective Basquiat
“Virtually no other artist comes anywhere close to being as representative of the 1980s and that decade’s pulsating New York art scene as does the brilliantly exceptional artistic phenomenon that was Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
“Born in 1960 in New York as the son of a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, he ran away from home at age 17 – initially making his way as a graffiti artist and at times even living on the street. It was not long before he began his rapid ascent. Basquiat’s meteoric career can seem something like fast-forwarding through a movie filled with sequences where the principal character interacts with his era’s most significant artists, including David Bowie and Madonna. Moreover, Basquiat also maintained an inspiring friendship with Andy Warhol. His paintings were soon in extremely high demand, appreciating rapidly in value — and by 1982, he had become both the youngest-ever participant in documenta 7 and the first world-famous artist with Afro-American-Caribbean roots. Basquiat was unable to withstand the challenge posed by this quick success for long. In 1988, he died at the age of 27 of a drug overdose.”
The Basquiat exhibition is on display from 9 September until 8 January. It includes over 50 of his major works from renowned public and private collections. Most of his works are untitled.
The Albertina is a gem, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there viewing beautiful art!