Hannes Richter

Visions of America

Hannes Richter

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Klosterneuburg/Vienna presents Visions of America, a majestic sweep through the dynamics of American art beginning with the early 1960s until the present day. More than 130 eclectic works of art by American artists selected from two important private collections, the Sonnabend Collection of New York and the Essl Collection of Klosterneuburg/Vienna are on exhibit until March 6, 2005.

The Sonnabend Collection contributes its seminal medley of paintings by its gallery owner, Ileana Sonnabend, grande dame of the New York art scene. The many artists she discovered in New York, together with her first husband Leo Castelli, included among others, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol. Ileana Sonnabend championed these artists on the way to international breakthrough when she opened her first own gallery in Paris during the sixties, presenting them for the first time to the European continent.

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Andy Warhol’s "Early Colored Liz" (1963)

The Essl Collection represents Austria's largest private acquisition of contemporary art, a highly individualistic selection of works acquired by Agnes and Karlheinz Essl, who initially devoted their enthusiasm and leisure to Austrian post-war painting, including Hundertwasser, Boeckel, etc. In the late 1980s, however, they started focusing on American art of the late 1960s. With works by Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, Donald Baechler, Ross Bleckner, Julian Schnabel and David Salle, the paintings exemplify the different "visions" of artists born or living in America during the second half of the 20th century.

In an introduction to the exhibition in the museum's lobby, there are forty works by legendary photographers, accompanied by comments providing an overview of the most important events in recent American history from 1945 until today. It provides the social and political realities of the American context which nourished the ideas of these artists and carefully sets the stage for what is to follow.

It is a presentation of works that can hardly be more cheeky with its total cancellation of the traditional concept of what is painting: Robert Rauschenberg integrates everyday objects onto a canvas, and Cy Twombly scribbles his screen with lead pencil markings. With Andy Warhol's famous ‘Brillo’ boxes, and Claes Oldenburg's imitation of everyday scenes, we find ourselves in the middle of icons of Pop Art before it abruptly turns into Minimalism and Conceptual Art. And then there is the vacuum cleaner of Jeff Koons, or the neon objects of Keith Sonnier and Bruce Nauman - depicting the pulse of the American art scene at the time, insolent and in defiance of tradition, requirements or rules.

For more information, see: www.sammlung-essl.at