A weekend under the sign of art in Salzburg
Modern? Oh yes! Contemporary art has its place in Salzburg. Whether it is in large institutions, committed art associations, small galleries, or new art spaces, there is plenty of contemporary art in a baroque setting. Falstaff offers a tour of the top galleries.
City of music, city of theatre, city of festivals: Salzburg has a fixed role in the world of culture. When considering venues such as the Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mirabell Palace and the baroque old town, modern art is unlikely to spring to mind, with many recalling the fierce resistance that the exposed concrete power plant on the banks of the Salzach triggered.
But that is only the first glimpse. For behind the historic façades and arcades is an impressive museum landscape of a high standard that is anything but well-behaved. In addition to the large houses, there are small galleries and new art spaces in industrial halls, and friends of photography get their money’s worth in Salzburg. Maybe it’s the city’s art sensibility that makes for a good breeding ground; maybe the city’s sometimes conservative-cosmetic façade provides an ideal friction surface for provocative positions; maybe the tourist destination, which recorded a total of 2.6 million overnight stays in 2022, is also a perfect showcase for art. It is very likely that all these factors mark Salzburg out as a destination for an art weekend.
We climb the Mönchsberg, visit a venerable club and then dive into the world of cameras.
Salzburg’s flagship of the modern museum landscape is, as the name suggests, the Museum der Moderne, founded in 1983 as the Rupertinum. The spectacular plans for a ‘Guggenheim Salzburg’ inside the Mönchsberg were not realised in the end, but the Museum der Moderne now sits enthroned on the mountain and has since developed into the present: in addition to well-known names such as Bill Viola or Heimo Zobernig, space is also given here to non-white art and themes such as decolonisation.
A few metres down: the Künstlerhaus, home to the Salzburg Kunstverein. One of the oldest art institutions in the city, – it was founded as early as 1844 – it got its exclusive home, where it still resides today, 40 years later. The association, with its 550 members, has remained true to its main mission of connecting and mediating between the public and the artist, but has become more international and professional.
From here we go to the second photography focus of our weekend, the Salzburg location of the official Leica Galleries, which already have the camera in their name. Strictly speaking, there are two locations: Arenberg Castle and the actual gallery in Parsch, which cannot be overlooked with its elegantly curved glass windows. In addition to exhibitions on photography, photo workshops are also held here for those interested. Those who want to put what they have learned into practice right away will find the right equipment in the adjoining boutique.
We ring the bell at three different addresses today: in the top league, at the local postcode and in a nondescript industrial estate.
London, Paris, Seoul: an illustrious round of global metropolises, with Salzburg joining the ranks as number four, with one of the best-known galleries on the global art scene boasting addresses in all these places – Thaddaeus Ropac. More than 40 exhibitions are curated here worldwide and contemporary classics from Valie Export to Anselm Kiefer are shown.
In Salzburg, where the gallery history once began, Ropac is represented in two places: in the Villa Kast on Mirabellplatz and in a former factory building in the industrial park. If you would like to mingle with the worldwide art scene at a vernissage, the chances are good here.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Things are a little more local at Galerie Fünfzigzwanzig on Residenzplatz, named after its own postcode, but anything but provincial. Here, the focus is on installations, performances and interdisciplinary works, and beyond purely exhibiting, the gallery sees itself as a space for debating contemporary issues, with lectures and symposia on the programme. Exactly the right address if you want to look behind the scenes in Salzburg.
A new addition to Salzburg's gallery scene is Elektrohalle Rhomberg, which opened in 2020. To find it, you have to venture into a commercial area near the train station, but you’ll be rewarded with a large exhibition hall where Pipo Eisl and Boris Lesicky are putting together a programme focused on contemporary painting from Austria. With its first exhibition, ‘Fortress of Salt’, which invited artists who have a connection to Salzburg, the Elektrohalle politely announced itself to the urban public.
A journey through time: Salzburg’s cultural history, veteran photographers, and a small gallery with young contemporary works.
No self-respecting city can do without a municipal museum. In Salzburg there are no less than eight, grouped together under the name Salzburg Museum – enough for a whole weekend. The main building, however, is clearly the one in the New Residence; here is the stage for the art and cultural history of the city and province of Salzburg, represented in the permanent exhibition that traces the myth between Baroque and tourism. The temporary exhibitions swirl a breath of fresh air through these myths with contemporary art.
Time to get back to photography! The 40-year-old Galerie Fotohof, whose founding and success is the result of consistent teamwork, is virtually a veteran of this field. To this day, the gallery is collectively run by a dedicated group of photographers and people interested in photography, and thanks to its good networking, the gallery is able to present renowned Austrian and international artists. Not only that, it has also accumulated an impressive library of photography books and publishes them itself.
To round off our weekend, we visit a classic, fine little art gallery. Galerie Trapp in Griesgasse in the middle of the old town, run by Clara Kanz and Fabian Bruckner. It has specialised in contemporary painting, drawing and sculpture for ten years, exhibiting mainly young Austrian artists; one of many examples of how the historical setting in the city on the Salzach offers space for the present.
Museum of Modernity
Arch of Hysteria. Between Madness and Ecstasy, 21/7/2023 to 14/1/2024
Salzburg Art Association
Megan Rooney, until 31/12/2023
Douglas Kirkland, 20/7/23 to 16/9/2023
Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery
1983 to 2023: 40 YEARS. With important works from the founding year 1983, as a juxtaposition to current works from 2023 – 28/7/23 to 30/9/2023, Villa Kast & Salzburg Halle
Meeting Point until 11/8/2023
Electric Hall Rhomberg
Max Freund, ‘Father Figure and Motherboard’, 14/6/23 to 29/7/2023
Salzburg Museum Neue Residenz
Fischer von Erlach, until 8/10/2023
Inge Morath, until 29/7/2023
Franz Riedl, until 5/8/2023