In 2001 the Neue Galerie at the Universalmuseum Joanneum showed the exhibition, “Moderne in dunkler Zeit. Widerstand, Verfolgung und Exil steirischer Künstlerinnen und Künstler 1933–1945.“ (Modernity in Dark Times. Resistance, Persecution and Exile of Styrian Artists 1933–1945). This exhibition was a correction: it corrected a view of history and regional art history. It returned to Styria a forgotten, suppressed and forbidden modernity. Modernity and Styria have been considered synonyms only since the steirischer herbst 1966, but regarding primarily not production but mediation. Styria had apparently not contributed anything of national, much less international significance to the development of modernity. The exhibition set out to prove the opposite. In so doing, it also demonstrated that a generation was denied not only their lives but also their art. For the first time it was possible to experience how great the contribution to modernity would have been in Styria, had politics and society allowed it. The exhibition, curated by Günther Holler-Schuster, was accompanied by a catalogue, edited by Günter Eisenhut and Peter Weibel. In 2003 the Akademie Graz and Emil Breisach organized the exhibition “Meisterwerke der steirischen Moderne“ on Burg Rabenstein and in Frohnleiten, for which Günter Eisenhut and Götz Pochat published the eponymous catalogue. The extreme tension between the avant garde in the metropoles and the traditional context of Styria led to thematic and stylistic transformation processes in the art works that the artists pursued with diligence and responsibility. Up until the 1960s the audience’s, but also some of the artists’, appreciation for the international movements in modern art, was humble, which makes the artworks created at the time notable.
Starting from these two projects, in his Künstlerhaus talk “Modernity in Dark Times,“ Günter Eisenhut will show the outline of Styrian modernity, whose history is partly entangled with that of the Künstlerhaus in Graz, its formation, architecture, exhibitions and organizers.
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.
Günter Eisenhut (lives in Graz) has, for several decades, been the head of the gallery remixx in Graz. He conducted the research for the exhibition “Moderne in dunkler Zeit. Widerstand, Verfolgung und Exil steirischer Künstlerinnen und Künstler 1933–1945“ (2001) in the Neue Galerie Graz, and was co-curator of the exhibition “Meisterwerke der steirischen Moderne“ (2003) on Burg Rabenstein and in Frohnleiten, and is the co-editor of the respective catalogues.