An ambivalence between tradition and modernity could already be felt in Graz, and not only there, during the interwar period, but was especially perceptible after World War II, where the disastrous authoritarian regime of the National Socialists, and the Austro-Fascists before, had brought a strongly normative and artistic uncertainty and a national repudiation of any progressively oriented modern art. Beyond the occupation of Austria (1945-55), and thus the date of origin of the Künstlerhaus around 1952, the exhibitions in the aftermath show two different, if not oppositional, directions: on the one hand a “conservative,” “down-to-earth” modernity, on the other hand the “international modernization.” Both directions are apparent in the architectural style of the Künstlerhaus itself, which is characterized by a (late-)modern position including historical and sacral-representative elements as well as a conservative-modernistic construction without using a persistent architectural language. The institution’s exhibition history proves to be similarly multifarious: first seeking a link to modernity (“Picasso in Kopie”, 1953; “Die Wiener Secession”, 1953) it soon turned towards a more traditional, partly pre-modern, art. Especially external institutions, such as the steirischer herbst, through temporary exhibitions brought the house closer to contemporary art. From 1963 to 1995, for example, the Künstlerhaus was venue of “Dreiländer-Biennale” trigon, organised by the Neue Galerie at the Landesmuseum Joanneum, which served to present current artistic work from Austria, Italy, and the former Yugoslavia. Gudrun Danzer and Günther Holler-Schuster, both curators at the Neue Galerie at the Landesmuseum Joanneum, where they are responsible for the collection, present selected examples from the exhibition history in Graz between 1900 and 1970 and thus illustrate relevant forerunners, the time of origin and the first period of exhibitions at the Künstlerhaus and discuss the departure, the reactions and setbacks of modernity and its counter-positions in Styria.
The steirischer herbst 2019 under the heading of “Grand Hotel Abyss“ and its reference to the Hungarian philosopher, Marxist interpreter and political activist Georg Lukács deals with the relationship of intellectuals – and their perplexity – to the visibly rising dangers of fascism in the time just before World War II. The Künstlerhaus, which was built during the de facto expiring British “occupation” in 1952 and its administration that empowered democracy, reconstruction and the creation of an Austrian identity, was commissioned by the federal state of Styria and was the first cultural building erected in Austria after World War II. It takes the thematic focus of the exhibiting artists Jasmina Cibic, Jeremy Deller and Ian Hamilton Finlay as a starting point to explore its own formation and architectural history as well as its exhibition history, thus extending the historical frame into the post-war period. For this purpose, the supporting program is made up of personalities from various disciplines who were invited to discuss from a variety of perspectives the founding and development of the Künstlerhaus up to its current form of a hall for art and media.
Dr. Gudrun Danzer (*1958 Graz, lives in Graz) studied Art History and Romance studies at the University of Graz. She is collection-curator for paintings, sculptures, and installations at the Neue Galerie at the Universalmuseum Joanneum, where she is also responsible for provenience research. Among others, she curated the exhibitions “Aufbruch in die Moderne? Paul Schad-Rossa und die Kunst in Graz“ (Neue Galerie Graz, 2014/15) and “Bild, Realität und Forschung von 1960 bis 1980“ (Neue Galerie Graz, 2016). She is co-editor of several catalogues such as “Rudolf Szyszkowitz 1905–1976“ (Wien 2005) and “Moderne: Selbstmord der Kunst?“ (2012), which, managed by Peter Weibel and Christa Steinle, accompanied the eponymous exhibition at the Neue Galerie.
Mag. Günther Holler-Schuster (*1963 Altneudörfl, lives in Graz) studied art history and anthropology at the University of Graz. He is collection-curator and assistant departmental manager at the Neue Galerie at the Universalmuseum Joanneum, where he worked already during his time as a student. Holler-Schuster also works as an artist, and in 1987 founded the artist’s group G.R.A.M. He curated various exhibitions at the Neue Galerie Graz and the Kunsthaus Graz, including “Moderne in dunkler Zeit“ (2001) and “Kunst der Anpassung“ (2010-11), and realized projects for the steirischer herbst and the Secession Vienna.