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ID 1412801 Word Count: 2.044 Discuss the role of the Secession building designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich. In what ways can the building’s changing exhibition practices and the building’s design be understood in term of the Secessionist motto above the door: ‘To every age its art, to art its freedom’? “Let us consider the ideals of the Secession for a moment, take into account the resulting requirements and convert them into fixed parameters. The result is, like in
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  ID 1412801  Word Count: 2.044 Discuss the role of the Secession building designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich. In what ways can the  building’s changing exhibition practices and the  building’s design  be understood in term of the Secessionist motto above the door: ‘ To every age its art, to art its freedom ’?   “   Let us consider the ideals of the Secession for a moment, take into account the resulting requirements and convert them into fixed parameters. The result is, like in a calculation, a certain sum. This sum is what the designer expressed artistically. [  …  ]  ”    -   Hermann Bahr on Joseph Maria Olbrich ’ s Secession building In 12 November 1898, the Secession building was complete and opened its doors to the public as an iconic exhibition and institutional space which embodied the key concepts of the influential Secession art movement in Vienna. On the façade right above its doors, there was displayed the belief which guided the young artists: ‘Der Zeit, ihre Kunst. Der Kunst, ihre Freiheit ’  (To every age, its art. To art, its freedom). The motto bestowed by art critic Ludwig Hevesi revealed the importance of freedom in their art practice as well as “ the need for artists to create art relevant to their own time ” 1 . This idea of freedom was developed within the Secessionists ’  production and is represented by the building ’s design and exhibition display  , with aims of breaking away from traditional art practices perpetuated by the art institutions of Vienna at that 1   WHALEN, Robert Weldon. Sacred spring: God and the birth of modernism in fin-de-siècle Vienna. Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2007, p.113  period, including exhibition practices, thus exploring new modernist plastic and conceptual possibilities in their art production. Before further analyzing the significance of the Secession building, it is extremely important to emphasize that Secessionist artists did not produce one specific style, but engendered a plurality of different aesthetic orientations and tendencies, which can contribute to the understanding of their belief in artistic freedom, such as lecturer Leslie Topp reinforces by stating that their “(…) emphasis was on artistic integrity and purity, not on schools or styles ” 2 . The Secession building can be understood as a representative of the Secession key concepts, firstly regarding the revival of the art scene in Vienna with the comprehension of a variety of mediums, thus diminishing the boundaries between art and other disciplines such as architecture and design; secondly, in reference to the possibility of presenting foreign art to the public in their exhibitions, such as French impressionism and the influence of Japanese art (the 6 th  Secessionist exhibition in 1900 was dedicated to Japonisme); and finally, constituting an institution independent of commercial means, therefore permitting experimentation and the possibility of exploring creative freedom in exhibitions. These key issues are better indicated in a letter of termination written by the Secessionists to the  Kunstlerhaus Genessenschaft  , which alongside the  Akademie de bildende Kunste (  The Academy of Arts  ) constituted the conservative art institutions in the Ringstrasse of Vienna: “These ideas now culminate in the realisation of a necessity: the necessity to establish a contact between the artistic scene in Vienna and the ever- progressing art scene outside of Austria. Furthermore exhibitions need to be freed of commercial interests and organised according to purely artistic 2  TOPP, Leslie Elizabeth. ‘ The Secession Building: Multiple Truths and Modern Art ’  In  Architecture and truth in fin-de-siècle Vienna . Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 34  standards, so that a pure and modern concept of art can be taught to the broader public. Finally, a higher understanding of art needs to be awakened in higher circles.”   3   Regarding the matter of seeking a synthesis of the arts, the creation itself of the Secession building can be understood as iconic of freedom in art with a Gesamtkunstwerk  (total work of art), for it involved the collaboration between architect Joseph Maria Olbrich with architect Josef Hoffman and artist Koloman Moser, as illustrated by Robert Whalen in his book: “ Josef Olbrich designed the Secession building, but it was Moser who enlivened its severe geometry with a frieze (now destroyed) of garlanded maidens and stylized owls. Moser was a participant in and ornagizer of all major secession shows.” 4  In a declaration written in the first issue of the Secessionist magazine Ver Sacrum, this dialogue between different art disciplines and the importance of the applied arts can be observed: “  We know no distinction between ‘high art’ and ‘handicraft’’ 5  . The Secessionists aimed to reach the masses through their showcases and even their exhibition practices revealed the concept of freedom, represented by flexible possibilities, moveable furniture and elements which guaranteed different exhibition layouts and permitted a variety of mediums to be displayed. As described by the Vienna Secession website: “   [  …]  Olbrich saw the need for a versatile exhibition place that could accommodate the group’s vision of ‘Gesamkunstwerk’  , that is, where all disciplines of the arts could be exhibited simultaneously. Olbrich 3  Letter written by members of Secession. Cf. CARL, Klaus H.  Art of Century: Viennese Secession . Parkstone International: 2012, p.90 4  WHALEN, Robert Weldon. Op. cit, p.280 5  BRANDSTÄTTER, Christian. ‘Introduction: the Wiener Werkstätte 1903 -32 ’. Wonderful Wiener Werkstätte: design in Vienna, 1903 –   1932 . London: Thames & Hudson, 2003, p.7  incorporated moveable interior partitions and columns which meant that each exhibition could have its own unique layout. This created enough wall space for paintings to be hung at eye level and ample floor space so that sculpture and painting could be paired in the same exhibition. ”    6   The location itself of the Secession building can be comprehended as a representative of their ideals, ‘both symbolic and controversial’ 7  , for example its nearness to the food market (or Naschmarkt) in Karlsplatz, where the common people  would attend, alongside with its site implantation slightly off the Ringstrasse, which can be suggested as a negation to the Historicism and tradition perpetuated by other art buildings in that area such as the Academy of Arts and the  Kunstlerhaus.  What can  be suggested as controversial towards its location is the fact that it is still close to the institutional artistic area, not literally and spatially breaking away from these surroundings.  An important artistic aspect regarding the design of the Secession building is the functionalist modern influence of Olbrich ’s mentor Otto Wagner.  The young Secession architect had worked previously for Wagner on the Stadtbahn project, during  which he had contact with Wagner ’ s ideals of coherence between functionality and form, where “ the task of art and therefore modern art too, remains always the same. Modern art must represent to us Moderns our abilities, our actions, forms that we ourselves have created ” 8 . Nonetheless, critic Robert Whalen points out that “ at the very same time, Wagner insisted that the technological and the functional had to be transformed from dead things into living forms. ” 9   6   ‘A History’  In Vienna Secession –   Graphic Arts in Vienna and Germany 1895-1920 . (2012). Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://www.theviennasecession.com/vienna-secession/ 7  Ibid. 8  WAGNER, Otto. Modern Architektur  . Vienna: Anton Schroll, 1896 In WHALEN, Robert Weldon. Op. cit, p.283 9  WHALEN, Robert Weldon. Op. cit, p.284
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