Glass as art, design, and a measure of history. The Glitz and Glamour exhibition at the MAK celebrates 200 years of glassware at J. & L. Lobmeyr.
- Dozens of objects illustrate aspects of glassware design
- Styles, techniques & innovations
- Artist & designer collaborations
- Wonderful exhibition layout
- Quite breathtaking in places
- Runs Jun 7 to Sept 24, 2023
- See also:
200 Years of Lobmeyr
(The Lobmeyr store on Kärntner Straße)
Wander down pedestrianised central Vienna, and a few establishments have resisted the inevitable wave of international brand stores. One is J. & L. Lobmeyr’s main shop at Kärntner Straße 26.
The outside looks like one of those wonderful emporiums of old: a portal to a world of delights crafted in glass.
Founded in 1823 and still a family-owned business, Lobmeyr manufacture and sell glassware that deserves a capital G. The kind where the borders between art, design and industry blur.
The company once counted the Imperial court among their clients. They produced the first electric crystal chandelier (in cooperation with Edison). Lobmeyr glass appeared at world exhibitions (and won awards there). And their products hang, for example, in New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
(Sieben Pokale der Menschlichkeit [Seven Goblets of Humanity]; Design: Nives Widauer, 2023; Execution: J. & L. Lobmeyr; © LippZahnschirm)
Ludwig Lobmeyr, the founder’s son, also supported the establishment of what is now the MAK Museum of Applied Arts, back in the late 1800s.
A circle of a sort closes, then, in 2023 with Glitz and Glamour at the MAK. This major exhibition marks Lobmeyr’s 200th anniversary.
Not that this is the first Lobmeyr exhibition at the location. That honour goes to an 1879 exhibition. The Die Presse newspaper noted at the time that what made the event particularly admirable (my translation) was:
…the truly inexhaustible versatility and diversity in the technical and artistic treatment of the glass, which bestows ever new charm and beauty on the medium.
((MAK Exhibition View, 2023; GLITZ AND GLAMOUR: 200 Years of Lobmeyr; in the front: Chandelier for the glass and ceramics room at the Werkbund exhibition in Cologne, 1914; Design: Josef Hoffmann, 1913; MAK Exhibition Hall © MAK/Georg Mayer)
Glitz and Glamour takes us on a foray through two centuries of glassware design. In doing so, it seems to do honour to that journalist’s opinion, since the objects on display reflect different styles, techniques, designers and material innovations.
Enjoy drinking sets, vases, chandeliers, historical design drawings, and more.
From 19th-century glasses mimicking historical forms, through classic production series associated with legendary designers like Josef Hoffmann or Oswald Haerdtl (the man behind Café Prückel), to special one-off artistic designs like Nives Widauer’s Seven Goblets of Humanity and even glass porcupines.
A defining characteristic of Lobmeyr’s work is collaboration with noted artists and designers. The company worked, for example, with Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte in the era of Vienna Modernism. They continue to engage in such collaborations today.
(GLITZ AND GLAMOUR: 200 Years of Lobmeyr; Lobmeyr glasses from the MAK Collection: spherical receptacle, design: Oswald Haerdtl, 1925; water carafe Seen-Flüsse-Gletscher – Aral See [Lakes–Rivers–Glaciers—Aral Sea], design: Marc Braun, 2010 (loan from J. & L. Lobmeyr); stemmed glass, design: Oskar Strnad, 1916/17: dish with foot, design: Walter Weber, c. 1916; flower vessel/lidded box, design: Hella Soyka, 1945–1950 © Leonhard Hilzensauer/MAK)
All of which is fine, but won’t prepare you for the exhibition layout, which combines the elegance of glass with inspired use of illumination and shadow.
The opposing mirrors in the entrance area, for example, create a maze of glass and light that had my head spinning.
Perhaps I’m getting sentimental in my old age, but the view of the chandelier collection gave me literal goosebumps. That small section includes Hans Harald Rath’s creation for the Met: a chandelier by name, a thing of inspired beauty by nature.
Given the many open displays and relative delicacy of some of the items, a viewing also left me wondering just how terrifying the process of setting everything up might have been. Although, as the exhibition explains, thin glass is more robust than you might think. Still…rather them than me.
Dates, tickets & tips
Experience the glint of light on glass from June 7th to September 24th, 2023. Any valid entrance ticket for or from the MAK includes the Lobmeyr exhibition.
For even more glass design joy, nip into two permanent exhibitions dealing with art & design in Vienna around 1900: one at the MAK itself and one over at the Leopold Museum.
How to get to the MAK
See the travel tips at the bottom of the main MAK page.
Address: Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna