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The Purloined Masterpiece. Images as Time Machines

Event Label
Organisational Units
Paintings Gallery
Location Address (1)
Schillerplatz 3, 1st floor
Location ZIP and/or City (1)
1010 Vienna

Sabine Folie, Director of the Art Collections, together with her team cordially invites you to the opening of the exhibition The Purloined Masterpiece. Pictures as Time Machines at the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Welcome: Johan F. Hartle, Rector
On the exhibition: Sabine Folie, Director, curator of the exhibition

The Exhibition contrasts the conventional practice of collection display with a model that allows the Academy’s historical art collections – the Paintings Gallery, the Graphic Collection and the Plaster Cast Collection – to enter into conversation with contemporary works. It draws on these three rich collections, plucking out only a selection of the many possible pictorial programmes, typologies and allegorical formulas in order to loosely interweave these with works from other periods.

The exhibition takes a digressive tour through art history from the 15th century to the present day, as reflected in the art collections of the Academy of Fine Arts. In the process, it addresses 17th-century theories of pictorial representation, such as this of Samuel van Hoogstraten, as well as considerations from present- day media theory that arise from technological transformation, exploring how this has been reflected in image generation and the associated theoretical debate since time immemorial.

In addition to these themes, the exhibition showcases the metaphor of the seascape and its territorial-political representation – the ship and the sea. The period on the cusp of courtly and bourgeois concepts of society, the implications of proto-industrialisation for class relations and living conditions play a key role here along with related ambiguous figures of exclusion and status satires. Nudes and depictions of Mary come into play, as do the contrasting poles of the Dionysian and Apollonian or Gothic transcendence.

Typologies, fluid transitions and subject constitutions are displayed and put up for discussion on a stage replete with surprising correlations and radical juxtapositions in a spirit of viewing art through the prism of “family resemblances” and correspondences or connections despite all the historical conditioning produced and established over the centuries.

The exhibition’s title comes from a commingling of E.A. Poe’s detective story The Purloined Letter about a stolen letter that goes unnoticed in plain sight and Honoré de Balzac’s novella The Unknown Masterpiece (“Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu”), which explores the imagination and the limits of representability: “The aim of art is not to copy nature, but to express it!” old Master Frenhofer proclaims in the novella. Moreover, the novella features figures such as Peter Paul Rubens, Nicolas Poussin and François Porbus, all of whom play a role in the collection of the Paintings Gallery. Both stories deal with the issues of representation, appropriation, mimesis and (optical) deception, as well as with the definition of “mastery” when it comes to grasping reality, albeit in the opposite sense of excessive imitation and failure in representation

Works by Willem van Aelst, Ludolf Backhuysen, Cornelis Bega, Hieronymus Bosch, Sandro Botticelli, Dirk Bouts, Richard Brakenburgh, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jacques Callot, Daniel Chodowiecki, Joos van Cleve, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Gaspard de Crayer, Albert Paris Gütersloh, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Jan van Huysum, Johann Baptist von Lampi the Younger, Meister der Katharinenlegende, Martin van Meytens, Philips Angel van Middelburg, Adriaen van Ostade, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Jakob van Ruisdael, Rachel Ruysch, Roelant Savery, David Teniers the Younger, Anna Dorothea Therbusch, Wigerus Virtringa, Simone de Vlieger and numerous other historical works from all three collections as well as contemporary works by Martin Beck, Anna-Sophie Berger/Teak Ramos, Marcel Broodthaers, Lili Dujourie, VALIE EXPORT, Rodney Graham, Ulrike Grossarth, Marcello Maloberti, Willem Oorebeek, Jeroen de Rijke/Willem de Rooij, Klaus Scherübel, Allan Sekula, Paul Sietsema, Laurence Sturla etc.

Curator: Sabine Folie

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