Ah, the stories the streets might tell. Or not. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then maybe photographs can tell the stories for them. Or not. See for yourself at this new exhibition at the Kunst Haus Wien.
- A delightful journey through five themes in street photography, each featuring different artists, techniques, eras and locations
- Includes such icons as Diane Arbus, Merry Alpern, and Robert Frank
- Best seen with a combination ticket for the Hundertwasser Museum in the same building
- Runs Sept 11, 2019 to February 16, 2020
- See also: Hundertwasser Museum
The streets as subject and context
The famous painters get most of the art glory in Vienna. But not all of it, thanks to such institutions as the Kunst Haus Wien. Home to the Hundertwasser Museum, it also holds regular photo exhibitions. And the latest takes us on a journey through seven decades of street photography.
“Street. Life. Photography” is not, however, a chronological documentation. Instead, the curators (Sabine Schnakenberg and Verena Kaspar-Eisert) present around 200 works in five themes to illustrate the evolution of techniques and aesthetics.
The result is an enlightening and thoughtful stroll through the genre that juxtaposes the works of icons of the past with those of a new generation of street photographers. Many of the photos come from the prestigious F. C. Gundlach collection.
I’m no expert (on anything, frankly) but I simply enjoyed seeing the variety of approaches and subjects that this genre brings forth – some gripping, some intriguing, some challenging. And all the while still feeling I was viewing a cohesive whole.
Kind of like emerging from a sweet shop with a lovely packet of pick and mix.
My personal highlights:
- Street life is our first encounter with iconic works such as photos by Diane Arbus
Maciej Dakowicz’s Cardiff street scenes brought back memories of late Friday nights of my youth, while Dougie Wallace’s in-your-face studies of Mumbai’s Premier Padmini taxis burst with colour, movement and life.
- Public transfer explores transport environments, where private and public spaces collide
Michael Wolf’s photos of sleeping subway users, their faces and limbs pressed up against compartment windows in overcrowded Tokyo trains, have an other-worldly, almost post-apocalypse, feel to them.
- Crashes tackles moments of conflict, contrast, or disturbance
Some of Mirko Martin’s shots of LA street scenes are “real”, some from film sets, but you never learn which is which.
- Alienation perhaps resonated most with me (I’m an immigrant, after all)
Here you find, for instance, Robert Frank and photos from the book, The Americans, that broke new ground in the field. Sadly, he passed away just two days before the start of the exhibition.
Melanie Manchot’s group photos from Moscow possess a notable intensity and frisson. And Natan Dvir’s shots of huge billboards dwarfing and contrasting with the city’s actual inhabitants seem like a poignant sign of the times.
- Anonymity includes, for example, photos from Merry Alpern’s Dirty Windows series from the 90s that so angered US conservatives
Dates and tickets
The exhibition runs from September 11, 2019 to February 16, 2020. The Kunst Haus Wien opens daily from 10am to 6pm.
A ticket for the exhibition costs €9 for an adult. But believe me when I say you should spend an extra €3 and get the combination “exhibition + Hundertwasser Museum” ticket*.
Because the museum is brilliant.
(Alternatively, a Vienna Pass gets you one-time free entry to the museum and exhibition.)
How to get to the Kunst Haus Wien
Just follow the tips given in the main article on the Hundertwasser Museum.
Address: Untere Weißgerberstraße 13, 1030 Vienna