Openings Austria

Modernist haus fit for Vienna’s modern art

As former expo showcase is re-erected, Von Habsburg hopes to move Berlin’s Kunsthalle next door

The 20er Haus in Brussels, 1958

VIENNA. Austria’s pavilion for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels is to become a gallery of contemporary art. The building, which was dismantled and re-erected in Vienna, is now being restored and adapted by the Belvedere gallery. In September it will reopen to show post-1945 Austrian art.

Known as the 20er Haus (Twentieth House), it was designed in a Modernist style by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer for the Brussels expo. The simple, box-like pavilion originally comprised an open ground floor (40m x 40m) with a central courtyard and a glassed-in upper gallery.

After the World’s Fair, the structure was transported to Vienna and in 1962 it was re-erected south of the city centre, near the Upper Belvedere palace. The pavilion, in Arsenalstrasse, then served as a venue for the display of post-1900 art until its collection was moved to the Museum Moderner Kunst [Mumok], in the museums quarter in 2001.

The 20er Haus was then transferred to the Belvedere, which decided to convert it into a gallery with modern facilities. Adolf Krischanitz, a student of Schwanzer, was brought in as the architect. The original structure has been restored and adapted, and the interior is now being finished. Costs will be €31m, mostly from government funds.

The upper floor is to be used for the display of the Belvedere’s collection of post-1945 art and the ground floor for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. A large basement has been added, with public facilities and storage. Part of it has been allocated to the Fritz Wotruba Foundation (which cares for 500 sculptures and 4,000 works on paper left by the sculptor, who died in 1975) and the government’s Artothek (contemporary art collection).

The architect is also adding a 22m-high tower, which will provide a beacon for the museum. The gallery is located on the edge of the Schweizer Garten (Swiss Garden), where there will be a sculpture garden.

Although the area around the 20er Haus has, until now, been rather isolated, Vienna’s new central station is being constructed across the street, which should help renew the area after its completion in 2015.

Francesca von Habsburg also wants to move her Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary gallery to a spot next to the 20er Haus. Since 2004 the collection has been located in an 18th-century building in Vienna’s historic centre. Von Habsburg is buying the Krischanitz-designed Temporäre Kunsthalle in Berlin, which is due to be dismantled by the end of this month and transported to Vienna (see The Art Newspaper, December, p20). Von Habsburg is optimistic that planning permission will be given.

It now looks likely that Vienna’s two newest galleries (one adapted by Krischanitz and the other designed by him) will be in adjacent buildings which have been moved half way across Europe, from Brussels and Berlin.

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