press release

As Salzburg celebrates the bicentennial of its union with Austria, the exhibition Anti:modern spotlights characteristic events and phenomena in the life of this city and region in the heart of Europe between tradition and renewal. The ambitious project unites historic exhibits from the visual arts, society and politics, literature, dance, theater, music, and the sciences with works by renowned contemporary artists to inspire wide-ranging reflections.

Is Salzburg indeed anti-modern, as has often been claimed? The—perhaps provocative—question is the point of departure for this comprehensive exhibition staged on two floors of the Mönchsberg museum venue, which assembles work by an international cast of artists to draw a differentiated picture of modernity. The show examines numerous events and phenomena in Salzburg and western Austria in an effort to reconstruct an exemplary scene of Central European modernity, gathering evidence of liberal-minded attitudes and an embrace of modern life and art and tracing how such openness was subsequently buried beneath the political propaganda of the 1930s. "The project surveys a broad range of thematic fields to map the manifestations of modern as well as anti-modern life-worlds," the museum's director, Sabine Breitwieser, who conceived the exhibition and led the curatorial team, explains. "It showcases articulations of modernity in society and politics and its expressions in literature, dance, theater, and music as well as scientific insight, but also addresses the profound consequences of intellectual and practical opposition to modern life." A rich selection of exhibits and other materials are on view on over 18,000 square feet of exhibition floor space. Six thematic foci undertake a nuanced and critical examination of modernity as well as the vision of an anti-modern life: after a prologue, the first chapter illuminates modern life-worlds. Two chapters portray tendencies in both modern and anti-modern art. Exile as a fundamental condition of the modern world is the subject of a separate chapter. The exhibition concludes with the revival of modernity after World War II. Interspersed between the historic art and materials are selected works by the international artists Alice Creischer/Andreas Siekmann, Renée Green, Hans Haacke, Oliver Ressler, Gerhard Richter, Isa Rosenberger, and Franz West that consider various thematic aspects from a contemporary angle.

When we imagine the city as a platform for modernity and progress, we think of international metropolitan centers like New York, Berlin, Paris, and Vienna. With the inauguration of the Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Railway, Salzburg, a growing town in the heart of Europe, was increasingly connected to the network of Europe's major cities. It attracted conventions of international scientists and scholars such as the first International Psychoanalytical Congress in 1908 and was home to private scientific laboratories like the one operated by the Exner family. The Salzburg Festival is widely regarded as a crucial source of fresh impulses for the arts, both in Austria and abroad. Among the less well-known and surprising examples of innovative cultural initiatives in Salzburg are the International Society for Contemporary Music and the Elizabeth and Isadora Duncan School in the 1920s. The work of artists' groups and local women activists demonstrate the growing presence of progressive thinking and democratic processes. But the exhibition does not draw a veil over the expressions of a different view of modernity: conservative and traditionalist tendencies and efforts to enlist the arts for political purposes in the 1930s. Obliteration and expulsion as well as forms of aesthetic and political exile are important themes. The presentation concludes with the revival of modernism after 1945: how should the city and country make a fresh start after the horrors of war? Two possible answers were proposed by the documenta exhibition series, launched in Kassel in 1955, and the establishment of the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in 1953. 18 years after the Degenerated Art exhibition and its counterpart, the Great German Art Exhibition, Arnold Bode, who taught at the Kassel Academy of Fine Arts, showed the modern art the Nazis had vilified as "degenerate" in the provisionally repaired Museum Fridericianum to restart the dialogue with international artistic developments in Germany. Eight years after the end of World War II, Oskar Kokoschka, who lived in exile in Switzerland, generously agreed to direct the Salzburg Summer Academy, now the longest-standing program of its kind in Europe.

A volume of scholarly essays titled Anti:modern. Salzburg inmitten von Europa zwischen Tradition und Erneuerung, edited by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, will be published in conjunction with the exhibition. With contributions by Hildegund Amanshauser, Sabine Breitwieser, Deborah R. Coen, Elizabeth Cronin, Karl Fallend, Roman Höllbacher, Claudia Jeschke, Oliver Rathkolb, Birgit Schwarz, Michael P. Steinberg, Monika Voithofer, and Beatrice von Bormann. German edition, softcover, 163 x 235 mm, ca. 300 pp., ISBN: 978-3-7774-2696-9, Hirmer Publishers.

Curatorial team: Sabine Breitwieser (exhibition concept and chief curator), Director; with Beatrice von Bormann, Curator and Head of Collection; Barbara Herzog, Marijana Schneider, and Verena Österreicher, Curatorial Assistants.