Contemporary art Austria

Objects of desire

Museum Moderner Kunst wants dealers to lend works for exhibition

Karola Kraus, the director of Vienna’s Mumok, has a list of artists she wants to buy

vienna. Karola Kraus, the director of Vienna’s Museum Moderner Kunst (Mumok) who arrived yesterday in Basel to attend the opening of Art Unlimited, will be visiting the main fair today with an eye to a project she is calling “The Museum of Desires”. Her plan is to find up to 30 works of art to fill gaps in Mumok’s collection. Dealers will be asked to lend them for a special display this autumn, during which donors will be sought to buy individual items.

“The Museum of Desires” will be unveiled on 9 September, when Mumok reopens after a three-month renovation. The works, dating from the 1960s to the present day, are to be integrated into the relevant gallery displays, with special labels naming the lending dealers and explaining that a donor is being sought to add them to the permanent collection. Private individuals and corporate sponsors will be approached to fund the acquisitions (prices will be “on application”, not on the label).

Kraus has drawn up a hit list of artists she wants to add to the collection. Among her “desires” are works by John Baldessari, Ray Johnson, Martin Kippenberger and Fred Sandback, who are not represented in the museum. Mumok has an important painting by Cy Twombly, but would like to add a sculpture. A Dan Flavin show is being planned for October 2012, so the museum wants to upgrade its representation of his work. Other artists being sought include Tacita Dean, Tomasz Kowalski, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman and Franz West.

Of the 30 works Kraus is seeking, she has made provisional decisions on half, but is still looking for the remainder. “Art Basel will offer the best opportunity to complete my list,” she told The Art Newspaper. Kraus knows the fair well, having visited most years since the age of 16.

Although Mumok’s collection begins with classical modernism, Kraus has reluctantly decided not to include this period in her “desires”, simply because prices are now too high. In selecting works, she is limiting herself those that are still “affordable”, priced up to about €1m. Kraus will also be asking dealers for a reasonable museum discount on purchases.

Mumok, which moved to Vienna’s Museums Quarter ten years ago, closed for renovations on 30 May, primarily to upgrade lighting and create new display spaces. This work is costing €3.2m, mostly coming from Austria’s culture ministry.

Kraus took over as director last October, and her “Museum of Desires” will indicate the direction in which she wants to steer Mumok. In particular, she is keen to expand presentations of conceptual art and American minimalism, as well as the younger generation of international artists. Kraus also wants more works by female artists and those from eastern Europe.

“As soon as I get back from Basel I will finalise my selection,” Kraus said. She admits that “The Museum of Desires” is partly a reaction to Mumok’s “dwindling state-funded acquisition budget”.

“The Museum of Desires” will be at Mumok, Vienna, 9 September-29 January 2012

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