A Visitors Guide To Viennese Modernism 2018

10th April 2018

Fin De Siècle Vienna. In 2018 the Austrian capital celebrates a turn-of-the-century in Wiener Moderne, or Viennese Modernism to you and me marking 100 years on from the deaths of four of the movements most notable talents: painters Klimt and Schiele, architect Otto Wagner and graphic artist Koloman Moser.

Wien Tourismus, 2016, copyright www.peterrigaud.com

It has long been said that Vienna is the focal point for European Modernism reaching its purest and most concentrated expression within the last 100 years.  Led by the Habsburgs, Vienna was once the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire before its demise at the end of the First World War luckily, visitors can still enjoy the architectural and artistic grandeur  this compact city has to offer.

Wien, Schönbrunn, 2014, copyright www.peterrigaud.com

It's not hard to see when visiting how the curtain was raised on fin-de-siècle art following the Secession movement. This group of artists formerly of the Vienna Künstlerhaus association changed the narrative of preceding art trends to develop what is now identified as Viennese Modernism: it was both Klimt and Wagner who spearheaded this rebellious movement.
Their first stronghold if you like for this movement and a must see when visiting Vienna, The Secession an exhibition space crowned with 3000 gold-plated iron laurel leaves, designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich and located by The Naschmarkt (Vienna's foremost luxurious food and produce market) was built to exhibit the work of the era's chief protagonists, and is a key example of Viennese Art Nouveau.

Secession© WienTourismus/Christian Stemper

Of the four men being celebrated, Gustav Klimt may perhaps be the most recognised amongst this roster of modern movers and shakers, beloved for his erotic portraits of women, each lavishly embellished. The Belvedere Palace owns the worlds largest collection of works by Klimt with a staggering 24 paintings on display, including his most noteworthy piece The Kiss, which remains on permanent display in the Upper Belvedere.

Belvedere© WienTourismus/Christian Stemper

Upon visiting this remarkable building, be sure to check out the famous Beethoven Frieze created by Klimt and measures over 34 metres in length. The mural was dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven and inspired by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Additionally, numerous other paintings by the art nouveau genius including many of his key works like, Death and Life, are on show at the Leopold Museum.

MuseumsQuartier© WienTourismus/Christian Stempermax. – DIN A2

The Museum takes its name from its founder and collector and expert of Viennese art Dr.Rudolf Leopold. Located in Vienna's Museumsquartier and designed by leading architects Manfred and Laurids Ortner: the Leopold is home to the world's largest and most eminent compilation of works by the youngest of the four men being honoured, Klimt's protégé, Schiele. The works of Egon Schiele demonstrates a fascination with the depiction of women, particularly in his depiction of eroticism and sexuality – so much so that advertisements for this commemorative year titled “Beauty and the Abyss” featured contorted nudes which were censored for audiences in both the UK and Germany. Whilst the Leopold is home to a majority of Schiele's works others can be found at The Belvedere Palace and Albertina. Many of the era's key expressionists like Mahler, Schoenberg, Wagner will also feature throughout the year  too.

Perfectly located amongst beautiful baroque and modern buildings you will find the Museumquartier – previously the former Habsburg court stables, is now the epicentre for all nine of the city's must see museums.

Whilst there are plenty of museums to see and exhibits to explore, a simple walk around the inner districts will reveal the inspired art nouveau architecture of Otto Wagner who's talents exceeded canvas, extending to: stations, railings and bridges of the former Stadtbahn railway (now the U6 U4 subway lines) the Austrian Post Savings Bank, the delicate flowers decorating the tiled Majolica House on Linke Wienzeile; leaving a visible legacy on the streets of Vienna.

Wienzeile Jugendstil facade© WienTourismus/Christian Stempermax.


Wienzeile Jugendstil facade© WienTourismus/Christian Stempermax.

Like many cosmopolitan cities, Vienna is also home to an array of both shopping precincts and boulevards where you can expect to see leading designer brands to second-hand finds at flea markets across the city. Head to the Naschmarkt for Vienna's multinational fruit and vegetable market which on Saturday's doubles up as a flea market or drift between Mariahilfer Strasse and Schönbrunn Palace where you will find the city's largest shopping street.

Wiener-Werkstätte-Stil  or Vienna Workshop Style was a movement which really came into fruition in 1903 and saw the mission of bringing art into people's everyday lives. Both Josef Hoffman, Koloman Moser and, as its patron, Vienesse industrialist Fritz Waerndorfer thought to bring about this movement through craftsmanship in the mould of English and Scottish arts and crafts movement. During it's heyday Wiener Werkstätt  became a global brand synonymous with high-value furniture, interiors and porcelains. the city's shops still sale a collection of these celebrated designs. Tip-toe around Lobmeyr's  famed for their beautifully crafted chandeliers located on Kärntner strasse as well as drinking glasses in all shapes and sizes crafted by Hoffmann and Adolf Loos.

Wien Tourismus, Copyright www.peterrigaud.com

For the largest collection of Wiener Werkstätt objects, head to The MAK (Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art) showcases all stages of the design company's history: the museum is home to the world's largest inventory of works by Josef Hoffman.


If after gallivanting around city's extensive shops has you in need of a tipple, head to Loos American Bar: designed by Adolf Loos is perhaps a ting but magnificent establishment. Loos was an Austrian architect, architecture critic and cultural publicist and is considered one of the founding fathers of modern architecture. A proponent of modernist objectives in both architecture and design, Loos followed the principle “form follows function” unlike Moser and Hoffman, he opposed ornamentation and excessive design in everyday life. Instead, he opted for the finest materials in his designs which can definitely be seen in at the American Bar.

The exterior houses a glass mosaic bearing the American flag and the name of the bar rest on four marble pillars. Inside is but an optical illusion, mirrored walls encase a small room with booths and a single bar which seems to stretch on endlessly but in fact is only 4.545m X 6.15m. Mahogany wood juxtaposes against the green and white checkered tiled floor. Smoking is allowed in many of Vienna's bars too however a ban is on the horizon.

Window on to Vienna: Hotel Topazz – Anna Blau

Those looking to complete a full modernist experience, can stay at the architecturally innovative (of course) Hotel Topazz, it's exterior a nod to Koloman Moser and the room interiors are decorated with murals which pay homage to the Vienna Workshop designers. Right opposite,  you will find the sister Hotel Lamée has a roof terrace with ringside views of Stephansdom cathedral which go perfectly with a nightcap before bed.

(c) Markus Thums_Topazz Schlafzimmer mit Balkontür 81 SUPERIOR

If uniquely interesting facades interest you, while not technically part of Viennese modernism, Kunst Haus is a great sight to see. Kunst Haus is a colourful and complex build, designed as social housing by the controversial Austrian artist/architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Not too dissimilar to GaudiHundertwasserhaus uses bright colours, irregular shapes and allowed residents to add their own creative flare too.

Kunst Haus _1_©_Schwingenschloegl

The dinning scene in Vienna syncs well with the calories you will burn walking around this city. In two words, Schnitzel love. Whilst there is many places which serve perhaps Austria's most famous cuisine, none do so with more theatrics than Restaurant Meissl & Schadn. Watch your own veal cutlets be flattened before your eyes from their open-planned kitchen, choose whether your schnitzel be fried in lard, butter or vegetable oil (has to be lard) and enjoy with a wonderful cucumber salad and potatoes.  For something modern try Labstelle, Vienna's most coveted farm-to-table spot: all bread is baked on site, all produce is grown within the Vienna city limits too and they offer a die-hard cocktail menu. For something traditional head to Petz im Gusshaus where you can find some interesting ingredients on the menu for example, spleen and calf lungs perhaps not for everyone but does however come highly recommended by the chef. ingredients are sourced daily from the market and the food is delicious!

Viennese Cuisine: Wiener Schnitzel©WienTourismus/Robert Osmark

Getting around couldn't be simpler too, much like our beloved Oyster card, Vienna has The Vienna City Card which offers a fantastic and simplistic approach to travelling as well as more than 210 discounts on the city's sights. The City card is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours and comes highly recommended by the Vienna Tourist Board.

City View

If you want to enjoy Vienna in all its glory, there really is no greater time to do so than during this years centenary celebrations, the city is bursting with sights to discover both new and old and offers visitors the perfect city break.
Flights with My Austrian airline from £93 (austrian.com). Rooms at Hotel Topazz (hoteltopazz.com) from £139. For more information about events to mark the centenary of Viennese modernism, go to wien.info
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