The Leopold Museum in the Museumsquartier (MQ) is synonymous with the name of Egon Schiele, the Austrian expressionist whose public image reflects how we like our artists (mad, bad and extraordinary).
Inevitably, this image is not entirely accurate (apart, perhaps, from the extraordinary part).
- Art museum and home to the world’s most important collection of works by Schiele
- Features additional works by Austrian artists, mainly from Fin de siècle Vienna, including Klimt und Kokoschka
- Also hosts regular temporary exhibitions
- Tickets are €13 (concessions and Tiqets.com advance tickets* available or use the Vienna Pass* for free entry)
The museum has two permanent exhibitions.
The Schiele collection features 40 or so of his paintings and other items related to his life, while the Vienna 1900 collection mainly covers works by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Richard Gerstl and other leading Austrian artists and designers from the early 20th century.
These collections occupy the top two levels of the museum, while the lower levels are dedicated to temporary exhibitions, the shop and the coffee house.
On my visit, there was a temporary exhibition on 19th and early 20th-century Austrian landscape art, and another on African and Oceanic art (and its influence on European artists).
The museum sits in the southern half of the MQ complex, to the left as you come through the main entrance.
- At the time of writing, opening hours were 10 am to 6 pm daily (9 pm on Thursdays), but the museum closes on Tuesdays outside the summer months. Be warned that the museum is temporarily closed from Nov 5 to Dec 5, 2018.
- A basic adult entrance ticket cost €13, with the usual concessions and opportunities for discounts on combination tickets. See the official website for up-to-date prices and opening hours. The Vienna Pass gets you in free.
Once you pass the ticket barrier, you enter a bright, tall (as in several storeys high) marbled hall featuring huge photos of Schiele halfway up. Look left for audioguides and information, right for stairs and lifts to the other levels.
The galleries are bright, understated and airy. The works of art are quite spread out, so it all feels very open and you’re not overwhelmed (which is helpful if you’re uncomfortable with darker themes and nudity – both of which feature heavily with Schiele).
All information displays are bilingual (English and German).
- For a closer look at those entrance hall photos, watch for the window on Level 3 (the Schiele exhibition): it looks out across to the photos directly opposite.
- The large windows on Level 4 give you good views across the Museumsquartier and the old city. You can see the domes of the Volkstheater, Natural History Museum, Art History Museum and even the distant Rathaus.
- In December, as part of the Winter at the MQ event, huge seasonal images are traditionally projected onto the outer walls of the Leopold Museum. These change daily and make a lovely backdrop while you grab a glass of Christmas punch in the MQ courtyard.
Shop and cafe
The first floor houses the museum shop, which carries the kind of items you’d expect: calendars, postcards, prints, and other typical mementos and designer goods. Klimt dominates the themed items: I’m guessing “The Kiss” makes a more acceptable napkin than “Seated male nude” (depends on the meal, though).
There are plenty of books, too, including many in English. This is where to buy your guides to the museum or to the lives and works of the main artists featured within. (I bought “Egon Schiele: an illustrated life” by Roman Neugebauer).
The Café Leopold is a mix of traditional coffee house and modern bar. It’s accessible without going into the museum, so opens longer.
The museum, which opened in 2001, owes its name and collection to Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold.
In 1918, Spanish flu robbed the world of artist Egon Schiele just as he was on the cusp of widespread acclaim. Rebuilding a continent (and destroying it again a few years later) took attention away from the Austrian expressionist. It was Rudolf Leopold who essentially rediscovered Schiele and played a key role in reestablishing him as one of the world’s greats in the second half of the 20th century. In 2011, Sotheby’s sold a Schiele for over $40 million.
The family’s collection covers over 5,000 works held within the private foundation.
How to get to the Leopold Museum
The closest subway station is “Museumsquartier” (U2). You can also walk through the MQ complex from the northern end if you get off at the “Volkstheater” station (U2 and U3). Volkstheater is also served by a tram (49) and bus (48A).