Tuesday, August 12, 2014


From coffee houses and sachertorte, to “hipness” and creativity. Yes, Vienna is shedding its formerly staid image, with the help of cutting-edge fashion and a flourishing contemporary art scene.

Design by Michel Mayer
(Photo MQVFW/ T. Lerch)
The Austrian capital has a noticeably different atmosphere from years past, when the grand, imposing buildings, sounds of music and traditional cafés seemed to push visitors back in time.

Now, local and international designers are contributing to a vibrant fashion scene, amidst the baroque architecture, and new art and exhibition spaces are adding a youthful buzz to this historic city.

From 10 - 14 September, the Museumsquartier in the 7th district will become a giant runway with the MQ VIENNA FASHION WEEK, as the city vies with other capitals such as Paris, Milan and London for the title of trendsetter.

German designer Michael Michalsky will present his latest collection on the opening night, after which the week will see more than 70 designers participating. Viennese stylist Michel (Michaela) Mayer will be among those representing Austria, while others hail from Portugal, Thailand, Russia, Romania and a host of different countries.

The organizers of MQ Vienna Fashion Week
Last year the Fashion Week drew some 10,000 visitors, and the organizers say they expect more this year for the sixth edition of the event, which is unusual in fashion circles because of its accessibility.

“Unlike other Fashion Weeks, it is possible for everyone to buy a ticket and attend the shows, to see the upcoming trends being presented on a runway,” the creative headz organizing team - Maria Oberfrank, Zigi Mueller-Matyas and Elvyra Geyer - told Tasshon.

“We also offer a designated shopping area, where guests can shop the current collection from the designers that present their coming collection.”

Fashion by Susanne Bisovsky
Photo: MQVFW / T. Lerch
They added that the MQ VIENNA FASHION WEEK “offers young designers a platform to present their latest ideas” and that it has sparked collaborations outside of the traditional Fashion Week.

Asked to describe the fashion scene in the city, the organizers had this to say: “Like Vienna the city, the contemporary fashion scene is a delicate balancing act, between the classic and the young avant-garde.

“There are a great many young new fashion designers, further enriching the scene each year. We have well-established designers like Susanne Bisovsky, Anelia Peschev and Manufaktur Herzblut, who put their own spin on what can be considered to be classic fashion. On the other hand, we have young designers like Ruins of Modernity, R! by Dominique Raffa and Mariella Morgana, who have a more avant-garde approach, but are still ultimately wearable fashion.”

The growing group of young, enthusiastic stylists have already carved out a niche in the capital. In several areas of the city, particularly around Schleifmuhlgasse and Kettenbruckengasse, visitors are spoilt for choice by the array of boutiques offering modish outfits.

Dress by Susana Bettencourt,
a designer taking part
in MQ Vienna Fashion Week
Norbert Kettner, managing director of the Vienna Tourist Board, asserts that the city’s “avant-garde fashion scene has no end of collections” for visitors to discover.

The same could be said of the art field, as a thriving contemporary landscape has developed over the past years, complementing Vienna’s long-established museums devoted to the works of Klimt, Schiele and other icons.

The Museumsquartier (Museums Quarter or MQ), the site of the fashion week, is at the heart of the cultural resurgence. Inaugurated in 2001, it has expanded to become one of the ten largest cultural areas in the world, comprising museums, theatres, recreation facilities and restaurants.

This one-stop "culture feast" complex also houses mumok, the museum of modern and contemporary art, and here visitors will find artwork that contrasts hugely with Vienna’s erstwhile old-world air.

The modern interior of mumok (Photo: Tasshon)
Mumok is made for art fans who adore conceptual fare, and the wide spaces of the ultra-modern interior will appeal to such visitors. But for an in-depth look at an earlier “modernism”, one can head over to the neighbouring Leopold Museum, which boasts of having the world’s largest collection of works by Egon Schiele, along with a wide selection of paintings by Gustav Klimt.

The Leopold is the most visited museum at the Museumsquartier and with good reason, as it gives viewers a remarkable insight into the life and work of Schiele, who died in 1918 (at the age of 28) but who seems timeless.

In fact, Schiele’s paintings wouldn’t look out of place in the many current alternative art spaces in Vienna. These include das weisse haus, which changes locations according to its exhibitions, and the 21er Haus, housed in the former Austrian pavilion from the 1958 World’s Fair.

Known for its art shows and performances, the 21er Haus has billed itself as a “meeting point for fans of contemporary art” since its opening in 2011.

The Belvedere (Photo: Tasshon)
But contemporary art can also be seen in the traditional museums, which is part of what makes Vienna unique, according to Helena Hartlauer, the daughter of an artist and a member of the media relations team at the tourist board. “You don’t find this mix in other cities,” she told Tasshon.

At the Belvedere, the majestic former summer residence of Prince Eugene de Savoy, Klimt’s famous golden masterpieces such as “The Kiss” are on display. But in the same building, visitors can also view contemporary works.

This is equally the case at the impressive Kunthistorisches Museum, whose collections include famous paintings by the Flemish master Brueghel as well as Greek and Roman sculptures. The museum makes space for contemporary art in its programme too.

Works by Alex Katz  (Photo: Tasshon)
At the renowned Albertina, meanwhile, the range is from Leonardo da Vinci to Andy Warhol, with Manet, Cezanne, Klimt and Schiele also in the mix. Starting in September, the Albertina will show the “cosmic magic” of Catalan artist Joan Miró in a show titled “From Earth to Sky”. And until the 28th of September, visitors can catch the “cool aesthetics” of the American artist Alex Katz.

New York-born Katz, now 87 years old, donated 60 works to the museum, which has displayed them in an appealing manner, highlighting the artist’s contemporary style through sketches to portrait drawing.

As if all this wasn’t enough, there is art in the metro, art at hotels such as the Sofitel and the newly opened and very luxurious Vienna Park Hyatt, and art at diners such as Schaltwerk in the 6th district - a fusion of art gallery, bar and café

Cafe Central (Photo: Tasshon)
In addition, Vienna will host two major events this fall: the Vienna International Art Fair (aka Vienna Fair) in October and Vienna Art Week 2014 in November. 

Yes, this is the way to change one’s image, and when visitors have had their fill of art, they can still head to Café Central for a coffee and a slice of rich chocolate cake, never mind the rude waiters. - L. McKenzie