Wiener Blut

I once read somewhere that travelling is the best school. Not to mention how much fun it is. And ever since, I’ve tried to treat almost every travel experience as a lesson where you’re not being tested. So you learn things, enjoy the process and feel no pressure to deliver a paper. But there is homework: when you get home, in the silence of your own life, you extract the beauty or the truth or the essence of your recent experience and apply it to your existence later and in ways you least expect.

These days the lesson was about WIEN, hence the name of the post: Viennese Blood. It is not Strauss that I had in mind when I wrote it, but what I always do when I visit a foreign place, which is to get the feel of the city at the time, to feel its heartbeat. It may only be a glimpse of the true pulse of the city, or it may be a very personal and therefore irrelevant one, but it is a piece of Vienna as it opened up to me during my recent three-day stay. Basically, every time I visit a foreign city, I want to see something new, to befriend the unknown, even if the venue is an old friend of mine. And my latest Viennese ”friends” proved that they were worth getting to know.

It was raining cats and dogs when I arrived, so we took shelter in the Lower Belvedere, where I met Louise Bourgeois, whom I had never seen before. She was a painter, sculptor, installation artist, printmaker, mixed media artist, teacher, wife, mother of three, feminist (without intending to be one), abstract expressionist, activist, woman, inspirer who lived for almost a century (died in 2010) and created art that spoke to the human body, sexual imagery, violence, domestic life, family, death, trauma and art as a healing process. See some of her work below.


Femme Maison

But Vienna is not Vienna without paying tribute to the dear Albertina. I used to think that the Albertina was so beautiful that it had to be named after a woman. I discovered a long time ago that it was Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen who christened the place when he founded the museum in 1776. Albertina is always a charming experience with a touch of novelty, because in addition to the permanent collection, which is immensely rich and valuable, there is always something new to catch the eye and enchant the mind or, as in my case this time, to trouble the soul.

The Albertina Museum

In the State Rooms

Man in a Suprematist Landscape - Kazimir Malewitsch, 1930

Irises - M. Pechstein, 1925

Woman in Front of the Sun - Joan Miró, 1949

The Enchanted Domain, R. Magritte

Air, Iron, Water, Study for a Mural - Robert Delaunay, 1936/7

Claude Monet

Watercolour and Ink on Paper - Wassily Kandinsky, 1912

Nudes with Flamingos - Robert Delaunay, 1907

Garden with Autumn Flower - Emil Nolde, 1934

Another new acquaintance I made this time in Vienna was Gottfried Helnwein, who has a temporary exhibition at the Albertina to celebrate his 75th birthday, Reality and Fiction, which will run until February 2024. If Louse Bougeois was disturbing because it revealed disturbing slices of life and death, Helnwein, a contemporary artist, performer, painter, installation artist, photographer is downright shocking because he reveals disturbing slices of reality that have happened and are still happening in some parts of the world as we speak.

Using oil and watercolour, he paints a very clear cinematic picture of this violent earth, bandaged, wounded, weeping, helpless, murderous. Looking at the exhibition – a collection of the Viennese artist’s work from the last three decades – without any prior information, you would not be far wrong to think that this is a Gaza- or Ukraine-inspired work. In fact, Helnwein’s main interest is the helpless child, violence, war, death, injury and the vulnerability of innocence. His work is indeed a ‘’Murmur of the Innocents’’. I should have perhaps warned you that these are images that may affect you emotionally. They did affect me.

When I left the Albertina, I needed a moment to recover from the intense Helnwein experience. And while I was sitting on a bench, my eyes were drawn to an elegant shop on Albertinapl. 3, Jungmann & Neffe, a place full of history and beauty that has been in continuous operation since 1866. Needless to say, I had to have a beautiful bow tie from the oldest fabric shop in Vienna, especially from a place that was the Imperial and Royal Austrian Purveyor of the Court. Read the full story of the brand on their website

On a more positive note, my last ”friend” in Vienna happened to be one who works in my line of business, costume/fashion jewellery, which was a great meeting for me. I discovered Barbara Reisch‘s wonderful little shop, full of joy, colour and creativity, and did not want to leave. I finally left, but not empty-handed, because that is not an option there. Hers is a magical emporium where you feel like a 5 year old in Hamleys, wanting to touch it all, wanting to have it all. Check out the website and tell me what you think:

Between Lanthimos and Schiaparelli

Even though I can make my own earrings, I never have enough...

And since no visit to Vienna is complete without Mozart or Strauss, the day ended peacefully to the rhythms of Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Wiener Blut at the baroque Schönborn-Batthyány Palace.

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