An exhibition for our times. An escape into the seemingly unimaginable: the unimaginable as imagined by a phalanx of contemporary and modern artists whose vision narrows its eyes at reality and sends us down Alice’s rabbit hole into Wonderland.
- A mix of works by the likes of Rae, Lassnig, Warhol and Lichtenstein
- Art as refuge, though not always one without its challenges
- Features over 100 works
- Runs from May 7 – Sept 19, 2021
- See also: Albertina Modern – tickets & visitor info – selected past exhibitions
In the footsteps of Alice?
(Erwin Wurm, Fat car convertible, 2005, polyester, silver/pink, ALBERTINA, Wien – The ESSL Collection © Bildrecht, Wien, 2021)
They say travel broadens the mind. And when travel becomes impossible, then the mind must find other ways to escape the confines of pandemic-induced isolation or withdrawal.
Literature and the arts have long proved a reliable doorway to other times and places both real and imagined. Tolkien takes us into the smoke and fires of Mordor. Austen welcomes us to a Regency ball at Netherfield. And Carroll lets us accompany Alice into Wonderland. Which brings us to a timely exhibition at the Albertina Modern.
Mad hatters and tardy white rabbits may be thin on the ground in 21st-century Vienna, but art offers an alternative for those seeking refuge from contemporary restrictions. Fiona Rae’s 2004 Wonderland painting, for example, gives its name to the title of the exhibition and invites us to step into a world of confusion and colour.
Gilda Williams wrote of Rae:
We should not underestimate how rare it is for an artist to produce a painting that looks nothing like anything that came before it.
Is that not the very pinnacle of imagination?
Within the exhibition, journeys into “Wonderland” run the gamut of outcomes. We may find ourselves in utopia. Equally, we might skirt the edges of anarchy, land in some dystopian landscape, or return to the banality of the everyday.
All of which reminds me of this passage from Alice’s adventures:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where —” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
Wonderland features an eclectic mix of emotions, styles and media from some of the greats of contemporary and modern art: Oehlen, Kiefer, Lassnig, Baselitz, Warhol, Wurm, Lichtenstein and others. A gigantic pick’n’mix. I particularly enjoyed the alternative representations of Mona Lisa by the Gelitin group of artists.
The works appear in themed areas, such as pop art, anarchy in art, or forms of abstraction, though not all slip easily into an overarching narrative. Which may be the point.
In its own way, the exhibition complements a concurrent one at the main Albertina site: the landscapes in City and Countryside offer their own alternative escape route into urban and rural scenes reproduced or invented by artists across five centuries.
Dates and tickets
Escape into Wonderland from May 7th to September 19th, 2021. A normal ticket to the museum gets you into the exhibition.
Unlike other Albertina exhibitions, the display texts were almost only in German though the work titles came with English translations.
How to get to the exhibition
Just follow the tips at the bottom of the Albertina Modern overview. The building sits opposite Karlsplatz, where three subway lines join. Should you wish to escape into an audio wonderland, too, the Musikverein is next door (one of the world’s greatest venues for classical music). Many regard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, for example, as a paean to a utopian vision.
Address: Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna