Hannes Richter

Happy Birthday!

Hannes Richter

Austrian Cultural Forum New York

In Midtown Manhattan near 5th Avenue an Austrian landmark rises on a space only 25 feet wide and 81 feet deep. This modern 24-story building made of concrete, glass and steel is home to the Austrian Cultural Forum New York.

For many years it has been committed to sharing contemporary Austrian art and culture with the residents and visitors to thismetropolis of 19million people. This important example of cultural diplomacy is now celebrating the 10th anniversary of its reopening.

By enhancing the cultural understanding between the United States and Austria, however, the experience of the Cultural Forumgoes well beyond those ten years. In 1942, the Austrian Institute opened its doors in New York, with a mission to preserve and disseminate Austrian culture in the U.S. After the institute moved to its current location 21 years later, it was recognized as the official cultural representation of Austria in the United States.

In the 1980s, the building was in dire need of a complete renovation. But the team of the institute as well as the foreign ministry under then Foreign Minister Alois Mock had envisioned much more than that: It was to be a new “symbolic message of creativity”, as Peter Marboe puts it, who was director of the institute at this time, and as a result, the decision was made to commission a completely new building at the same location.

In an international competition that Austria hosted in 1992, 226 architects participated. The winning design was by Austrian-born New Yorker Raimund Abraham. His modern proposal managed to combine the functional necessities of an institutional building with a design that was able tomake an artistic contribution to Manhattans architectural landscape and to symbolically express Austria’s long support of the arts.

This was acknowledged in a very positive review by Herbert Muschamp of the New York Times: “Mr. Abraham’s design is a gateway into the tradition of modernity associated with Vienna at the turn of the last century.” On April 19, 2002 the new building was inaugurated and the new Austrian Cultural Forum New York re-opened its doors and continued its valued work of presenting relevant exhibitions, hosting concerts, performances and film screenings and promoting academic cooperation.

10 years later the Forum has its first important anniversary and how should this milestone be celebrated if not with more art and events? The Cultural Forum has thus planned an exciting year full of events and series, which began with its fall exhibition called “Beauty Contest” that presented a critical look on the racist, sexist and youth-cult aspects of beauty and by doing so challenged the notion of beauty itself.

At the center of the anniversary program will be ten concerts to commemorate the ten years of work by the Forum and to honor Austria’s continuing reputation as a land of music. The concerts will feature primarily contemporary Austrian composers, such as Bernhard Lang, Manuela Kerer, Jurt Schwertsik, or Wolfgang Mitterer and will be performed by renowned Austrian and American contemporary ensembles.

The first concerts in this series were highly successful and included performances by the popular New York Talea Ensemble, the renowned American ICE Ensemble and the Viennese Aron Quartet. On April 18, 2012 a world premier of the composer Agata Zubel was presented by the KlangforumWien, which also gave the opening concert for the new Cultural Forum on that day ten years ago.

Many more exciting highlights can be expected in the course of the year. “The Cultural Forum New York is a symbol of Austrian cultural identity and not only in its most visitble form of the dramatic building designed by Raimund Abraham. New York is a global hotspot in the arts and the Austrian Cultural Forumis our creative signboard in the center of all this.”