SALZBURG.- The Hotel Kobenzl in Salzburg, located in the hills above the city, is a well-known former luxury hotel. When photographer Matthias Hoch first paid a visit there two years ago with author Andreas Maier, the premises had already stood vacant for eight years. The rooms were still in good condition, almost untouched and well-preserved. It was like a journey back in time. The splendour of the former five-star hotel now has something one might affectionately call patina. The hotel comprises not just one building but rather a whole ensemble, consisting of the former Berggasthof and various annexes added in the 1970s. The result is an eclectic mix of styles. Matthias Hoch has a keen interest in the history of the hotel, the traces of its use, and the question of what was considered luxurious back then.
Through the inclusion of archival material, the examination of the hotel takes on a new dimension; the Kobenzl Saga comes to life. We see the Herzog family proprietors with prominent guests such as Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher and Herbert Grönemeyer. The owners children, who grew up in the hotel, are always present in the photos.
At some point, however, the celebrities stop appearing; the caravan moves on. Time has certainly left its mark on the hotel: Other than the view, nothing here is luxurious anymore, writes the Salzburger Nachrichten daily. After plans to sell the hotel had failed, along with tentative attempts to reinstate the hotel as a health & spa or a literary hotel, the premises were shut down in 2006. A surprising twist came in early 2015: the state and federal governments were desperately seeking space to house asylum-seekers and so the hotel became a refugee distribution centre. Overnight, the erstwhile advertising slogan (The world is at home at the Kobenzl) took on a whole new meaning.
Sampling and seeing and understanding the world is a major concern in Matthias Hochs photographic work. And the history of Salzburgs Hotel Kobenzl is a prime example of the transformation our society is currently undergoing.
Concurrently, the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst [Gallery for Contemporary Art] in Leipzig is showing the exhibition Matthias Hoch: Hotel Kobenzl. Projektion. A publication in the FOTOHOF edition is to be issued in September 2016.
Matthias Hoch, born in Radebeul, Germany, in 1958; visual artist and photographer; lives and works in Leipzig.