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Points of view in Austrian photography from the 1930s until today on view at Belvedere
Robert F. Hammerstiel, From the series Made by Nature – Made in China, 2004–2006. C-Print mounted on aluminium panel, 100 × 120 cm© Artothek des Bundes.

VIENNA.- Photos – Points of View in Austrian Photography from the 1930s until Today shows some 100 artworks drawn from the broad spectrum of Austrian photography in past decades, beginning in 1936 with Herbert Bayer up to current positions such as Nadim Vardag. The selection of works is based around three principal subjects: people, the things surrounding them, and the lens between all this – so photography as such. This exhibition brings together works from the Belvedere’s collections, the Artothek des Bundes (federal collection of contemporary art), the Fotosammlung des Bundes der Österreichischen Fotogalerie (federal collection of photography), and the Museum der Moderne Salzburg.

Photography is Everywhere
Long recognized as a medium in art, photography as a popular means of communication is our constant companion. How do we encounter photography and the jumbled proliferation of images we face in our daily lives? What is the situation in Austrian photography today? What does this tell us about the status quo? These questions form the starting point for this exhibition in which photography can be appreciated as an integral part of Austrian art history. “The Belvedere has a commitment to Austrian art in all its forms. So, since 2007, it has been a particular concern of mine to build up and expand a photography collection and to make this accessible to the public,” Agnes Husslein-Arco explains. The Director of the Belvedere continues: “I am delighted about the strengthened positioning of photography within the museum’s collection and its presentation in an exhibition devoted entirely to this medium.”

Looking at Things – Photography as a History of Seeing
The usages of photography are more varied today than ever before. In addition to artistic and documentary photography, photojournalism, advertising and science, commercial photography is more important nowadays than it has ever been. Against this background, the exhibition takes a close look at the medium and its potential. In addition to seemingly random everyday images, there is a type of photography that extracts things from the context in which they are used and explores their technical possibilities in art. This medium has its own history that simultaneously reveals a “history of seeing” and moreover encapsulates social and cultural history. In the words of curator Severin Dünser: “The way we look at today cannot be detached from our previous knowledge and how it colors our perception. This also occurs in the geographical contextualization of works.” As the exhibition has a national focus it also touches on the issue of what is specifically Austrian, all be it the result of projections or of expectations.

Finding Motifs – Things, People, and Photography per se
The exhibition is based around the three defining parameters of photography as principal subjects: object, subject, and how they are made to interrelate – in other words things, people, and photography per se. The focus is placed on the motifs and these reveal themselves to the viewer without being placed in contexts of subject or date, within a hierarchy or chronology. Without presenting them in categories, Photos shows various genres such as still life, artistic and documentary photography, portraits and nudes, press photography and reportage. Digital, edited images are juxtaposed with analog photos and individual, isolated motifs from particular series are on show. It is left to the viewers themselves to make their own classifications, form links or find narratives. The exhibition design by Clegg & Guttmann uses partitions, which are attuned to Karl Schwanzer’s construction of the 21er Haus. As a result new lines of vision keep opening up, encouraging the visitor to meander through the show.

From Still Life Photography to Photo Photos
Historical and contemporary still-life photography is shown in both classic and abstract pictorial modes and takes a lucid, laconic look at everyday things. This focusing on the object emerges, for example, in Gerald Domenig’s staged scene of chocolate cookies stacked as if they were bricks in an empty space. Similarly, it is revealed in Robert F. Hammerstiel’s arrangements of plastic fruit in the manner of a historical still-life painting. Images of people, gazes or snapshots of small gestures reveal a great deal about interpersonal relationships, as expressed in works by Herbert de Colle, Clegg & Guttmann, Bernhard Fuchs, and Matthias Herrmann, among others. Some works are devoted to the medium of photography itself. In the words of curator Axel Köhne: “The trappings of the photographer emerge wherever one looks: film cases, lens caps, dark rooms as attributes in the work of Werner Kaligofsky and Paul Albert Leitner or light as photography’s protagonist for Peter Weibel, Michael Part, Herwig Kempinger, Günther and Loredana Selichar, and Inge Dick.”

Three Collections Reflect the History of Austrian Photography
The exhibits offer an insight into almost eighty years of Austrian photography – from doyens like Franz Hubmann and Ernst Haas to young artists like Kathi Hofer and Anja Ronacher. They are from the collections that reflect the work of Austrian photographers: the Artothek des Bundes (federal collection of contemporary art), housed at the 21er Haus since fall 2012; the Fotosammlung des Bundes der Österreichischen Fotogalerie (federal collection of photography), the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, and the Belvedere. The Belvedere’s collection of photos has been expanding continually since 2007 as a result of a focused acquisition policy. Together with The Collection #2 on the upper floor, Photos provides yet another insight into the museum’s collection of contemporary Austrian art.

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