The Ruth Baumgarte exhibition at the Albertina showcases her outstanding oil paintings and other works arising from her many trips to Africa: vibrant and expressive art flowing with human empathy.
- Features over three dozen exhibits
- Includes works by Athi-Patra Ruga
- Texts and labels in English & German
- Runs Dec 8, 2022 – Mar 5, 2023
- See also:
Visions of Africa
(Ruth Baumgarte, Stream of Time…from the same-named triptych layered with meaning, 1995-1997, oil on canvas © Kunststiftung Ruth Baumgarte)
European representation of African peoples and cultures has rarely reflected well on the Europeans, to put it mildly. Too much interest in pursuing a desired narrative to justify or excuse immoral politics and practices.
Ruth Baumgarte (1923-2013) offers an exception.
The German painter’s figures and landscapes from the African continent come from a place of empathy. Not the kind of voyeuristic empathy that also distorts the portrayal of the human experience, but empathy in a deeper form.
What that means can be seen in the Ruth Baumgarte. Africa: Visions of Light and Colour exhibition, which features 38 or so oil paintings, drawings and watercolours by Baumgarte drawn from her many travels through Africa.
The oil paintings, in particular, blaze with colour and fluidity: vivid reds, yellows, greens and oranges. Borders and distinctions between skies, landscapes and people shimmer and fade.
Most of the works feature men or women going about their lives, but sometimes with an underlying tension hinting at the challenges of the socioeconomic environment.
The vibrancy, even if underpinned by that tension, certainly offers an antidote to the grey skies of a wintry Vienna. You can almost feel your vitamin D levels rising.
You’ll also find two tapestries and an oil stick /pastel work by Athi-Patra Ruga on display.
The artist from South Africa is the recipient of the 8th Ruth Baumgarte Art Award; the Ruth Baumgarte Art Foundation (brought to life by the artist herself) presents the prize annually.
(The award ceremony actually took place at the opening of the Albertina exhibition.)
Ruga is one of those multi-talents able to create powerful works in different media, exploring the gaps between utopia and reality, transcending artificial cultural barriers, and tackling such ever-relevant themes as sexuality.
Almost as if reflecting a dissolution of barriers between cultures, you can see parallels to Baumgarte’s oil paintings in the tapestries on display, even if just in the colours of the sky.
Dates, tickets, and tips
Enjoy visions of light and colour from December 8th, 2022 to March 5th, 2023. Any ticket for the Albertina includes the Ruth Baumgarte exhibition.
If issues around art, colonialism, and similar are of interest, can I recommend the Weltmuseum? Vienna’s ethnographic museum deals with these subjects on a daily basis given the nature of the institution and often has thoughtful exhibitions and displays around related themes.
Staying inside the Albertina, though, be sure to check out the other special exhibitions.
The Alt exhibition, for example, involves a dramatic change of pace from the above, but the detailed watercolours of historical Vienna cityscapes have a special resonance when you’re in the same city 150 to 200 years later. The dates coincide with the early part of the Baumgarte exhibition.
How to get to the Albertina
Once inside, simply head up the corridor after the ticket check to find the Baumgarte exhibition on your left in the Pfeilerhalle rooms.
Address: Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna