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MUMOK

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MUMOK - The newest addition to the much heralded MuseumsQuartier, a 60,000 metre square centre celebrating culture, history and the arts, is MUMOK, an unashamedly avant-garde exhibition space. Housing modern and contemporary art, MUMOK's mix of challenging and provocative exhibitions and a collection that gathers together some of the 20th century's most radical conceptual artists makes it a must visit for anyone interested in the recent history of the arts.

The gallery first opened in 1962, documenting works from the 20th century, though it was originally located in the Schweizergarten. The collection expanded down the years, bolstered by a 1961 bequest from the Ludwig family, and, after a series of expansions and relocations, finally found its current, purpose-built home in 2001. While the gallery was previously shoe-horned into old palaces and halls, the current MUMOK building is located in the Museumsplatz courtyard, a secluded, interior space dedicated to the arts. Designed by architectural practice Ortner & Ortner, the new structure, appearing like a single monolithic stone from afar, is clad in sheets of grey anthracite basalt, each individual stone unique in texture and tone, while small slotted windows break the monotony to let in much needed natural light. While the exterior can seem a tad bleak, the museum's interior offers sparkling white halls, the ideal space in which to hold cutting edge art exhibits, letting the works of art speak for themselves clearly and concisely without distraction.

The collection at MUMOK numbers of 9,000 distinct pieces, including paintings, sculptures, graphical works, films, furniture and photography, making it one of Europe's most important modern galleries. Pieces on show here go all the way back to the experimental, late paintings of Picasso, through mid-century iconography by Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, all the way to the modern giants of European art such as the colossal Gerhard Richter. Visitors can take in the Pop Art of Robert Rauschenberg, Yoko Ono's striking Fluxus pieces, the irreverent found art of Marcel Duchamp and the cool, modern motifs of Paul Klee or Piet Mondrian all in the space of an afternoon. Some specific highlights include Kandinsky's 1933 piece Obstinate , Magritte's The Voice of Blood, and Robert Indiana's instantly recognisable Love Rising . A cinema designed by influential artist Heimo Zobernig opened in early 2011, means that the latest audio-visual works by contemporary artists can now be watched inside the confines of MUMOK.

MUMOK also has the world's best collection of works by artists gathered under the Viennese Actionism label. A precursor to the explosive rise of extreme art and body art that we know today, this genre of art outraged and disgusted in equal measure when first exhibited in the early 1960s. With adult content, and occasionally gruesome scenes, this is section of the gallery is perhaps best left to grown-ups.

An on-site restaurant, the Hill Mumok, is a superb way to round off a visit to this impressive gallery. Fresh, seasonal ingredients, light, inventive salads and dishes from around the world should feed the appetite you may have built up wandering around the gallery.

Secession Hall - Easily one of the most eye-catching, and most unique, buildings in the entire city of Vienna, the Secession Hall is a temple to all things Art Nouveau, or, as it was known in Vienna, Jugendstil. This flowery and ornate style of art, design and architecture, focused on incredible beauty and intricate patterns, first blossomed across Europe in the 1890s, and nowhere was it so popular and influential as it was in Vienna.

The Vienna Secession, an Art Nouveau association founded in 1897 by a group of dissident Austrian artists, sought to break away from the dry, academic styles of their contemporaries to utilise modern methods of production, and freer, more imaginative forms at odds with historical realism. In order to provide an exhibition pavilion and gallery space for the movement, architect Joseph Maria Olbrich designed the Secession Hall, constructing the building in 1898. Financing came from wealthy benefactor Karl Wittgenstein, father of the famous philosopher Ludwig. The building was intended to be a living manifesto of the Secession ideals, an icon for their cause. Above the main entrance reads the motto "To every age its art, to art its freedom," emphasising how the Secessionists considered independent, free art to be the bedrock of any successful society.

The white structure, located on Friedrichstrasse close to the Academy of Fine Arts, is topped with an incredible domed ball constructed from a gravity-defying filigree lattice of gold-plated laurel leaves. The walls are decorated with motifs of twisting branches, streamlined sculptures of owls and other sylvan creatures, stone gorgons and festive garlands. Anyone glimpsing the structure for the first time is bound to have their breath taken away, especially on bright days when the sun glints and glimmers upon the golden roof. Yet upon first opening the building was derided, with some opinionated locals referring to the Secession Hall as a "temple for bullfrogs" and even as a "crematorium". Yet down the years the gallery has won the admiration of Vienna locals, earning a sensitive restoration after being damaged during World War Two, and is today a well established venue for art shows. In fact the hall is now so popular that it even featured on a 100 Euro coin minted in Austria.

Visitors who flock to this gallery will be happy to find that the interior is no less extravagant. Artworks from the period's most successful artists are often on show here, with Gustav Klimt's The Beethoven Frieze permanently kept on site. This lavish picture, painted with decadent gold-leaf, embodies the sensuous and mythic qualities that make Klimt so adored today, and depicts beautiful nudes, jungle wildlife and the serpentine, complex patterns of a snake skin.

Along with these permanent displays of Art Nouveau, the gallery also hosts around 20 rotating exhibitions each year, gathering disparate Jugendstil works from round the world frequently, as well as a selection of contemporary shows. Artists to have their work displayed here in recent years include David Maljkovic, Terence Koh, Christoph Meier and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger.

 

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