One theme at the Jewish Museum is the almost phoenix-like triumph of individuals after tyrannical adversity. Stefan Edlis fled Nazi Europe as a teenager to eventually become one of the USA’s great philanthropists and art collectors.
- Exhibition traces the Edlis life story
- Central feature is Maurizio Cattelan’s HIM sculpture
- Runs Apr 13 – Oct 2, 2022
- See also:
- Current Jewish Museum visitor info
- Current & future history exhibitions in Vienna
(Stefan Edlis as a racing driver © private collection of Gael Neeson)
After escaping Europe in 1941 aged just 16, Stefan Edlis (1925-2019) went on to find refuge in the USA and, together with his wife Gael Neeson, become one of the country’s great collectors of contemporary art.
The one-room (Un)Pleasant Journey. The Life of Stefan Edlis after HIM exhibition traces this Vienna-born philanthropist’s colourful biography, which included service in the US military on the Pacific front during WWII and founding the Apollo Plastics Corporation.
Business success allowed Edlis and Neeson to build an impressive art collection and become notable supporters of Chicago’s art institutions. Works by such names as Sherman, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Koons, Hirst, and Richter have all passed through the couple’s hands.
Madeline Grynsztejn, director of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, describes the collection as one…
…where you will never see a B-grade piece by an A-grade artist.
Display boards around the walls map out Edlis’s journey, while the room itself focuses on a rather special exhibit…
For the first time ever in Austria, the HIM piece by Maurizio Cattelan is on display: a largely wax-based sculpture of a kneeling and praying Hitler worth an 8 figure dollar sum and part of the Edlis collection.
No spoilers, but be sure to view the sculpture first from the far side of the room and then from the side on the left of the entrance for the full impact.
Cattelan and Edlis were friends: text and video explains the latter’s interest in the work, which might raise eyebrows given the collector’s personal history.
HIM is certainly no stranger to controversy. At its sale, Christie’s presented it as:
…one of the most shocking and disquieting works of art to have emerged in the post-war era
Even Cattelan himself noted in the same article:
I wanted to destroy it myself. I changed my mind a thousand times, every day
The renowned Italian artist is no stranger to Vienna. Cattelan’s Turisti installation filled the Theseus Temple here back in 2019, for example.
Dates, tickets & tips
View HIM and follow the story of Stefan Edlis from April 13th to October 2nd, 2022. A ticket for the Jewish Museum also includes the temporary special exhibitions at both its sites.
If you’re looking to view more art of the kind that sparked Edlis’s interest, then browse the listings for current contemporary art exhibitions at the major museums. The Ai Weiwei retrospective at the Albertina Modern, for example, runs until September 4th.
Alternatively, take a peek at this overview of contemporary art in Vienna.
How to get to the Edlis exhibition
Check the Jewish Museum article for directions to the main Dorotheergasse site. The Edlis exhibition occupies the smaller exhibition room one floor up from the entrance.
The rooms opposite trace the story of the Viennese Rothschilds during the initial weeks of the exhibition (until June 5th) and then explore sexuality in Judaism through the Love me Kosher exhibition (from June 22nd).
Address: Dorotheergasse 11, 1010 Vienna