Hannes Richter


Hannes Richter

On March 10, 2004, the BAWAG FOUNDATION opened for the first time an exhibit of artists as a group in celebration of the enlargement of the European Union by ten new member states. FREE ENTRANCE presents assembled works by twelve artists from the capitals of Austria's Central and Eastern European neighbors: Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, Prague, and of course, Vienna. The exhibit will run until June 19. Over the last number of years, a whole series of exhibitions have been dedicated to this region, but most of them have provided only one interpretation and, thus, contributed to supporting an attitude regarding Central and Eastern Europe as an exotic region.

"Question Marks" by Julius Koller,1969

Although the term 'Enlargement to the East' has been more and more replaced in recent times by the term 'Integration,' the underlying connotation that these countries still need some form of "fostering" remains present. This is why it becomes increasingly urgent to define what art and culture should be about - and still more urgent - what they should not be about. How can an exhibition critically accompany the enlargement on its new path and at the same time become a model in setting new trends?

Against the background of these questions and areas of conflict, FREE ENTRANCE relies on the high standards of the artists' work as the only parameter for its selection, and presents a number of outstanding art works from the seventies until today. The exhibit hopes to explore a novel relationship to the countries of the former Eastern Bloc and their art. The artists from the European East have been part of a global Diaspora for a long time. Though the selection does not explicitly focus on "politically involved" art, all the works presented deal with the complex and contradictory realities of the contemporary world. Confronted with a deep-rooted change, the artists do their best to find their bearings and try to cope with emerging new trends. The problems they face are similar to those of their colleagues in the West - issues such as the distinction between truth, reality and superreality.


The BAWAG (Bank für Arbeit und Wirtschaft) was one of the first Austrian business establishments that had taken on the political and social responsibility of actively supporting and propagating art. None of the exhibitions has been profit-oriented, and admission is still free. The BAWAG FOUNDATION was created in 1974. Since 1995, it focuses on contemporary art and presents international trends and the contents of today's art without favoring any artistic media or disciplines. For more information, see: www.bawag-foundation.at