Einstein claimed God does not play dice with the universe. But perhaps luck does. Or the stars. Or the Moirai of Greek mythology. The Higher Powers exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum explores how humanity has envisaged forces that control our lives without allowing quite the same degree of influence in return.
- A journey across history and cultures
- Highlights both the diversity and commonality of beliefs
- Includes depositions from the general public
- Runs May 18 – Aug 15, 2021
- Needs its own ticket (which includes museum entrance as well)
- See also: KHM overview and visitor info
An exhibition for the times
(So-called Horoscope Amulet of Wallenstein; South German, c. 1600/10; rock crystal, gold, silver, gilded; Dia. 9.3 cm; © KHM-Museumsverband)
Higher Powers seems a remarkably timely topic for an exhibition held toward the tailend (hopefully) of a global pandemic.
You only have to cast your eye around Vienna to find evidence of a widespread belief in some superior influential force. The many churches spring to mind. Or walk down the Graben and see the Plague Column; Emperor Leopold I built it to give thanks for the ending of the 1679 bubonic plague.
Higher powers do not, of course, relate solely to an assumed deity or deities. Fate (or the Fates), superstition, fairies, nature, the stars, political leadership, luck, karma, narrative causality, and other beliefs and phenomena have coloured cultures across the centuries and continue to do so today.
I, for example, always sacrifice a large beer to the Football Gods at the start of any important match. Given recent results for my team, some might argue these Gods do not exist. I prefer to imagine they simply choose not to listen.
(Or perhaps the beer needs to be bigger.)
Anyway, such higher powers form the focal point of the 2021 spring/summer exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM).
The exhibition covers the diverse beliefs in such powers across civilisations and eras, illustrating them with items from the KHM’s own collection and those of the Weltmuseum Wien and Theatermuseum. Some items have never yet been seen in public.
There is rhyme and reason to the selection of exhibits from the myriad of choices. They demonstrate the diversity of beliefs through history, but also how these beliefs have influenced, for example, art.
A key focus is the prevailing connection between disparate times and cultures through a shared belief in higher powers of one kind or another, a concept emphasised by contributions from the public. The KHM invited people to submit their own lucky charms or text passages on higher powers, and many appear in the exhibition.
Once I’ve had the chance to visit, I’ll explore some of the highlights. I daresay some of the wonderful items from the Kunstkammer will make an appearance.
Tickets and dates
The exhibition is slated to run from May 18th to August 15th, 2021.
Looks like adults need a special ticket (€18) to view the Higher Powers exhibition, though this will also get you a booklet and entry into the rest of the museum, too. As such the exhibition only costs €2, since normal museum entrance is €16. Kids under 19 get in free. Check locally if you have a sightseeing pass or advance online museum ticket to see whether you need to upgrade for the exhibition.
(Major exhibitions at the KHM normally attract significant crowds, but 2021 may prove different given the current condition of the world.)
How to get to the exhibition
The Kunsthistorisches Museum dominates one side of the Marie-Theresien-Platz square near the centre. See the main museum article for travel tips.
Address: Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna