Art in the Mountains of Vorarlberg: Lech Zürs am Arlberg and Bregenzerwald
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The Art Route
he local communities of the beautiful mountainous region of Bregenzerwald and Lech Zürs am Arlberg in Vorarlberg rarely tamper with their sublime surroundings. Here Alpine existence retains a pure simplicity. Life between 1,500 and 2,000 metres is all deep green meadows in the summer and powdery snow in the winter. Amidst the medieval and traditional Austrian surroundings, modern contemporary ideals prevail. You only have to glance at the pure lines of the contemporary architecture in Bregenzerwald to see how the curious combination of old and new co-exist. Throughout the region classic wooden buildings are punctuated with bold modern forms, clearly illustrated throughout the design hotels that you can stay in when visiting here. Contemporary buildings only heighten the beauty of the old. In the village of Hittisau, slick glass façades fit harmoniously alongside the classic pitch-roofs of yesteryear. Guests along the famous KäseStrasse 06
(‘Cheese Route’ – not a street or road in the usual sense but an association of farmers, dairies, inn-keepers, retailers and trades-people), are steeped in the ancient culinary traditions of the area. Lech Zürs am Arlberg offers plenty of culinary delights – it was awarded the accolade of ‘Most Outstanding Gourmet Village in the World’ at the Falstaff and Vöslauer Gourmet Gala in 2008. At the LöffelWeise gourmet evenings, which are created in collaboration with guest chefs, winegrowers and experts from all over the world, regional restaurateurs and their in-house teams present exquisite cuisine for themed evenings which leave everyone more than satisfied. horizon field Contemporary art has found an unlikely home in this high mountain region. The staggering Alpine landscape is a backdrop for British sculptor Antony Gormley’s latest project, ‘Horizon Field’, created through a joint venture with the Kunsthaus Bregenz
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(KUB), one of Europe’s leading venues for the exhibition of contemporary art. Hikers on this landscape installation, which snakes its way over 150 square km of horizontal green mountain path will encounter a hundred cast iron figures (winched by helicopters and placed at precisely 2,039 metres above sea level) gazing out at the lush summer landscape. The unspoilt Alpine habitat gives Gormley’s work powerful significance. The figures are a profound addition to the natural spectacle – at once commanding and vulnerable – standing boldly on windy precipices, weathering the elements. ‘Horizon Field’ is the largest installation of art in the landscape ever shown in Austria, and is gaining worldwide fame. where art meets architecture Gormley’s installation is a fitting expression of Vorarlberg’s modern Opposite page: Antony Gormley’s ‘Horizon Field’ consists of 100 life-size, solid cast iron figures of the human body spread over an area of 150 square km
Markus Tretter, © Antony Gormley, Kunsthaus Bregenz
High in Vorarlberg, some of Europeʼs finest contemporary art awaits
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Art in the Mountains of Vorarlberg outlook – the work is elemental, affecting and yet unobtrusive to the natural environment. The work makes subtle suggestions to its audience of hikers – each small iron figure could trigger big existential ideas about the future of humankind, or the omnipotence of the sublime. Gormley says he hopes his forms will make ramblers think, ‘What is he doing here? What am I doing here?’ In Lech Zürs am Arlberg it’s nature that provides the real spectacle. Gormley’s landscape installation leads hikers past spectacular lookout points, stunning rock formations, drinkwater clean streams; from natural landmarks to a mountain lodge library and a bivouac where they can spend the night. Every natural wonder or ancient tree is a work of art. This is not the only hiking attraction in this region. ‘The Green Ring’ is the walking trail that encircles Lech Zürs am Arlberg and whilst the endless expanse of track is a physical challenge (where you’ll also encounter mythical installations), there are now literary feats to encounter too. The Austrian writer Daniela Egger has traversed the route and created modern-day folk tales, which ramblers read on their way. Art and architecture takes on new meaning in the wilderness. The high altitude climbs of Vorarlberg are a sublime amphitheatre for experiencing art and the transcendence of creativity. Gormley’s subtle forms punctuate their Alpine surroundings – they are a touching reminder of human intervention and a humbling admission to the magnificence and beauty of the mountains they inhabit. At a heady 2,000 metres, surrounded by the clean, crisp mountain air and breathtaking views, each encounter is artistic, physical and elemental. The four white walls of the gallery may never be the same again.
Meet the locals
Avant-garde art on the Danube Linz’s Lentos Museum, designed by the Zurich architects Weber & Hofer, is one of Austria’s most important museums for modern and contemporary art. Opened in 2003, it houses collections of European painting from the first half of the twentieth century as well as collections of graphic art and photography. A major highlight of the museum’s 2011 exhibition season is the show ‘Che Fare? Arte povera – Die Historischen Jahre’ (18 February – 29 May 2011) and don’t miss the large-scale summer exhibition by the duo Gilbert & George which showcases their latest series, ‘Jack Freak Pictures’. (17 June – 9 October 2011).
Where wine and art mix
‘Over the space of just a few square km in the region of Lech Zürs am Arlberg, you will find an endless variety of landscape – from the scenic mountains to the soft meadows and the canyons, it really is like no other place in Europe. If you are a fisherman, like myself, or a gourmet, the fish you will find here are an absolute treat. People forget the wonderful fish you can find here in our waters – not just for fishing but for eating also. For us, as fishermen, they are our gorgeous and fascinating companions; for foodies, they are an unsurpassable, pleasurable and above all, fresh and natural, treat.’
‘The landscape installation ‘Horizon Field’ by Antony Gormley is a great inspiration for me as a hiking guide. I spent the summers of my childhood up in the Alpine pastures, and the close relationship between animal, man and nature propels me very deeply into this subject. Gormley’s iron sculptures make us ask questions about death, life, man, nature and landscape – the ideal combination for conveying the essence of our region.’
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The Weinviertel (‘wine quarter’) region is present throughout the Museumszentrum Mistelbach (MZM). In this 6,000 square metre exhibition space, the focus is on the region’s people, its past, and its present. The museum complex consists of the Nitsch Museum and the Lebenswelt Weinviertel Museum. Local artist Hermann Nitsch, whose ‘splatter paintings’ (right) are a regular source of controversy in the country, is represented here by a broad cross-section of his diverse work. The Lebenswelt Museum features an extensive exhibit on witches and is a rich source of information about the Weinviertel’s varied cultural landscape.
Africa meets Austria The Liaunig Museum is the private museum of the industrialist and art collector Herbert W. Liaunig and possesses one of the country’s largest collections of postWorld War II Austrian art. The collection ranges from present-day Austrian artists such as Arnulf Rainer and Cornelius Kolig to international stars like Tony Cragg, with his perspectively distorted sculptures. As a contrast to contemporary art, it also offers the permanent exhibition ‘Gold der Akan’ – 600 pieces of jewellery and cult objects from African tribal kingdoms, most of which date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are displayed in a 350 square metre black cube.
Salzburg's contemporary twist With the opening of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg Mönchsberg in 2004, this Baroque city now had a fitting place in which to display contemporary art. The museum was designed by Munich based architects Friedrich Hoff Zwink, and together with the original Rupertinum building at the centre of the Altstadt, the two Museum der Moderne buildings provide around 3,000 square metres of exhibition space. Exhibitions include thematic collections of art from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, exhibitions from the Austrian Gallery of Photography and large rotating exhibitions of international contemporary art. www.austria.info/treasures Austria’s Hidden Treasures 09