21 June 2013

Selling The New Art in Vienna (Part One)

Gustav Klimt, Carl Moll, and Koloman Moser:  founders of the Vienna Secession in 1897 and also founders of the breakaway group the Wiener Werkstatte in 1905.  The trio came to be known as the Klimtgruppe (Klimt Group. 
I've alluded before to the erasure of Carl Moll from the story of fin-de-siecle Vienna.  As well as being one of its most admired artists, Carl Moll (1861-1945) was adept an organizing exhibitions and selling art.    Also the stepfather of Alma Schindler Mahler, Moll's prominence was like a series of overlapping circles, reaching ever outward.
Early in his career, Moll attracted the scorn of Karl Kraus, a journalist opposed to hypocrisy and corruption of Habsburg Vienna, who dissected Moll's avarice and lack of principle in his newspaper Die Fackel (The Torch).    Moll had used his position on the government's arts council to lobby for the creation of a gallery devoted to modern art in 1900, which the Secession also wanted and which he hoped to direct himself.
Failing that, Moll became the director of the Galerie Miethke in 1904, after it was sold by the original owner, H.O. Miethke.  Klimt and his supporters in the Secession wanted to but the Miethke Gallery, while another group wanted Moll to represent them, but out of the Secessiongebaude (Secession Building).  The ensuing arguments laid bare Moll's conflicts of interest and the Klimt group seceded from the Secession.  With Galerie Miethke, Moll the impresario was vindicated.  He arranged exhibitions that introduced Vienna to artists of international stature, including Giovanni Segantini and Vincent van Gogh.  To be sure, both were safely dead and could be appraised as known and vetted commodities.

In The Blood Of the Walsungs, published in 1905, Thomas Mann, also a critic of bourgeois society but from a conservative perspective, had written, "The trimming of life were so rich, so  varied, so overladen, that there was almost no room left for living itself."   That was precisely the condition that  Moser and Hoffmann hoped to change with their exemplary gallery installations of  elegant and functional art.    By 1912, the group was forced to liquidate itself and reorganize as a limited liability company.  Competing explanations for the failure of a business that is now regarded as an aesthetic triumph linger.  Was it a lack of financial acumen and repeated cost overruns?  Or was it the cautious nature of a public that bought piecemeal what was intended as a totality? 

Notes on the photos:
In the top photo, a symphony in black and white, Moser's white-lacqured plant stands bracket a  setting by Hoffmann of ebonized oak furniture.  In this counter intuitive process, light oak  is darkened by rubbing black paint into the grain of the wood.
In the photo below, the display case contains a model of the Palais Stoclet, designed in 1905 and under construction for a wealthy couple from Brussels. The two female figures were designed by Richard Luksch (1872-1936), who had contributed similar faience pieces for the Secession Building and the Purkersdorf Sanitorium.  The pair pictured here were eventually placed in the Stoclet garden.

1. Wiener Werkstatte exhibition at Galerie Miehtke deigned by Koloman Moser - Vienna, 1905, photograph from Deustche Kunst und Dekoration, Volume 19, October 1906 - March 1907.
2. Koloman Moser - Jardiniere, metal lacquered in white, c.1906, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna.
3. Interior of Galerie Miethke - Vienna,  1905, interior designed by Joseph Hoffmann, photograph for The Studio magazine.
4.  Foto Bildarchiv - Marburg - View of the western pergola at Palais Stoclet, with statue by Richard Luksch, Marburg.


Hels said...

I am glad you have the display case model of the Palais Stoclet. It is sometimes suggested that all the architects, artists and craftsmen hoped to go en site to do their work in Brussels, but that may not have been possible. I haven't seen Palais Stoclet from the inside, but I have seen the Secession Building and the Purkersdorf Sanitorium. Very impressive, even now.

Secessionist black and white furniture and objects might have been a bit harsh, but they were certainly smart.

Jane said...

Hels, even Tania who lives in Brussels and passes the Stoclet en route frequently (whose fine website Textes et Pretextes is linked from here)has not been inside. Still family owned and lived in after a century, tours are occasionally arranged, for a very fortunate few.

Tania said...

Last information about Palais Stoclet :

Jane said...

Thanks a bunch, Tania.

Anonymous said...

I have had the pleasure of not only being inside, but being there for cocktails and dinner. The overused word "awesome" is very appropriate in describing the majesty and beauty of Palais Stoclet...on the Av. Tervuren.

Jane said...

Oh la la! How lucky you were.
The pergola looks like an oasis of quiet in the middle of a busy city.