Back in the saddle again (or, a tale of two visionaries)

After two days respite from museums, I felt ready to tackle a couple, albeit not as exhaustively as I had over the past week. 

I visited Kunst Haus and the MAK (Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst). The former houses a lot of the artist Hundertwasser’s paintings, maquettes, stamps, and other works, while MAK focuses on design. 

Having resolved I wouldn’t drive myself insane by trying to see every little thing, I focused on the works of Hundertwasser, but found I couldn’t read much of the things he himself wrote. 

I found myself sympathetic to his goals, desiring to replace overdevelopment with nature and restoring a, curvy, organic shapeliness to all buildings designed by people. I particularly loved his dedication to planting more trees in the cities, in houses, everywhere. 

But I realized I’d go mad if I were in a room with him — his writings and paintings betrayed a monomaniacal “true believer” vibe that I’ve found difficult to be around. I idolize woody guthrie and Susan b Anthony, but I suspect they’d have driven me nuts, as well. 

Although the museum forbade visitors taking photographs in the main section, the special exhibition, a retrospective of Martin Parr’s work, encouraged it. Much of Martin Parr’s work won my heart and soul because it had warmth, vibrancy, and a sense of humor. One section in particular, titled Dance, proclaimed that photography was the 2nd most democratic form of expression in the world, after dance. 

There was such exuberance and Joie de Vivre in his photos of people dancing that it made my heart beat faster:


This one he shot in Rio and I can only hope people will find that release and sense of ecstasy when the olympics make it there. Not holding my breath, though. 


This one he shot in Moscow, and it utterly disabuses the viewer of any notion of joyless and bleak life in the capital (a city I loved and would happily visit again).

Other collections of photos examined families at beach resorts; visitors to foreign climes (including Las Vegas — I can’t imagine what an Englishman would make of the world that is Vegas); and people approaching their 1st formal balls. 

A leisurely hour of walking brought me to MAK, which for all intents and purposes, resembles the Victoria & Albert in London or the Smithsonian’s Renwick in DC, prior to its renovation. MAK features the arts and craft of design, disciplines like fashion, rug weaving; jewelry; furniture; or printing. That sort of artistry. 

I could go on about the joys of discovering more art nouveau treasures:


Or how completely at home I felt in the room with carpets:


But those are not what jazzed me to my core. The discovery of architect Frederick Kiesler had me peering at photos, trying to imagine what life on Broadway must have been when a new production with his stage sets debuted; or wishing I could have been a fly on the wall the first time he and Peggy Guggenheim met (at her fervent request). 

Like Hundertwasser, Kiesler had a vision in his head so complete that he tried to illustrate his design principles (which coalesced in his term ‘Corealism’) in a convoluted,multi-factor equation. I think he, too, was a True Believer, and was a handful in person, but I’m impressed with his visionary zeal and energy. One product of his zeal I’d like to see is “the temple of the book” he built for Jerusalem. The maquettes were brilliant.  

His “city in Space,” which he exhibited in Paris in 1925; his notions of houses and furniture which could be infinitely reconfigured to create new living spaces; and his redesigns of both stage and movie theaters qualify him as one of the most exciting designers I’ve ever encountered. Why had I never heard of him for the first seven squared years of my life?

Postscript: I realized this morning that I could have easily cited Joseph Hofman and Otto Wagner as my two visionaries. They certainly would both qualify. 

“This is the walking song, a song in which to walk…”

Okay, somewhere, nick cave is grinding his teeth at my perversion of a good song. 

Having gotten that out of the way, I can report a glorious sunny day in Vienna, doing nothing but walking miles and miles all day, with a couple subway rides in there. As a consequence, this post has no observations on humanity, art, or the price of tea in Simla. 

When I left my hotel, I set out towards the southwest, but I zigzagged a bit. After a while, I ended up near St. Ruprecht’s church on a street named after Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Somehow, I managed four years of Latin without learning that he died in Vienna?


The jury is out whether this is the city’s first church,  but it sure wasn’t built yesterday, that’s for sure 

Moving south, I found a post office before beating east. I was seeking , and found, the Hunnertwasser House near the canal. 


After discovering I couldn’t go inside, I zigzagged north and east until I reached the Prater, at which point I realized I was starving, and scarfed down a kasekraner and a soda. Without those, I figured, I’d never reach the Danube. 

At that point, still thinking I could make it to the aqua-terra, housed in an old flak tower from WW11, I hopped the Ubahn to donauinsel, a stop atop a bridge over an island in the Danube. Got all that?


Glamorous, it ain’t. But the views over the river as one emerges from the train into the bridge are something else:


And there are swans. I never knew swans plied their way down the Danube!


Like elected officials, they look noble and glossy until they open their beaks and give voice to their needs. But I digress.

I walked back over the bridge and found a church whose name I have yet to find, but it sits at Mexicoplatz:


From there through a few more blocks through neighborhoods to the Prater, which is where I realized I was getting dehydrated and needed to return to my hotel  for refreshment. 

I wanted to see “the Third Man,” showing in English at a local theater, but an involuntary nap nixed that idea.  Since it only shows on Tuesdays and Fridays, I won’t catch that chance again. 

Nor will I get to see this production at the theater up the street from my hotel:


Well, you can’t have everything. So far, what I’ve seen on this trip is pretty amazing as it is. Not complaining.