Few Austrian photographers achieve enduring international success, but Elfie Semotan has become a global name synonymous with both commercial and artistic excellence. The Kunst Haus Wien presents a major retrospective of her work.
- Exhibition pays tribute to one of the greats of world photography
- Some 160 works across Semotan’s artistic oeuvre
- Runs May 5 – Aug 29, 2021
- Exhibition ticket* required (standalone or in combination with entry to the Hundertwasser Museum)
- See also: Kunst Haus Wien visitor & ticket info
Elfie Semotan. Posture and Pose.
(Elfie Semotan, Untitled (Floor Dance), New York, 1998 © Elfie Semotan, Courtesy: Studio Semotan)
As we tumble through life we might wonder quite what we’ve achieved. Is there, perhaps, one area of excellence we can look back on with pride?
I daresay Elfie Semotan is not troubled by such thoughts having achieved the pinnacle of success as a photographer in various genres and fields of application, both commercial and artistic.
Semotan moved to Paris in the early 1960s to work as a model, a role she reprised for Helmut Lang some 30 years later as part of her collaboration with the fashion great. Not long after arriving in France, the young model also moved behind the camera.
The change in perspective launched an astonishing career in photography that receives due tribute from the Kunst Haus Wien in a 2021 retrospective. The exhibition coincides with Semotan’s 80th birthday.
Semotan’s reach extends deep into the worlds of fashion and advertising. Her work has long graced the pages of a who’s who of fashion magazines that includes the likes of Vogue and Marie Claire. She produced portraits of Hollywood stars and photo series for top fashion labels. Her work in advertising created the kind of press many brands might only dream of (most famously in Austria for the lingerie manufacturer, Palmers).
But Semotan is much more than one of the world’s premiere fashion photographers. Her “commercial” work draws on artistic influences and her more artistic work has received equal acclaim.
The retrospective contains around 160 works divided thematically, with a focus on that artistic oeuvre. Art as inspiration comes across in works that draw on iconic photos or reference artists and eras, as seen in, for example, her Pre-Raphaelites series. Art serves as motif, too, with numerous portraits of artists themselves.
But Semotan’s work escapes even these broad confines in, for example, her landscape photographs that perhaps reflect her childhood in the Austrian countryside. In an interview around her 2016 autobiography, Semotan spoke of how she once saw Vienna as a young girl (my translation):
Vienna was full of paving stones. I found it bleak and grey. I saw no meadows and was completely distraught.(From the FAZ)
Even today, Semotan splits her time between homes in New York, Vienna, and one of Austria’s more rural provinces.
Dates and tickets
Enjoy the journey through Semotan’s works from May 5th to August 29th, 2021. The exhibition space is its own self-contained ticketed area within the Kunst Haus Wien building, spread across two floors.
How to get to the exhibition
Follow the travel tips at the bottom of the Kunst Haus Wien article. The same institution and location houses the Hundertwasser Museum, with a combination ticket available that covers both the photo exhibition and Hundertwasser’s marvelous works.
Address: Untere Weißgerberstraße 13, 1030 Vienna