Once over the Hill from Vienna - Part II
Klosterneuburg is among those odd suburbs that has suburbs. One of them is Maria Gugging, which is home to a hospital for mentally ill. Here the Austrian "Art brus" school originated, in which mentally ill but artistically gifted people were encouraged to produce artwork. Some of them became internationally famous and Gugging still maintains the "Künstlerhaus" or "house of the artists". There are frequent exhibitions on show and it is worth asking about the current ones.
The mental hospital will in part also turn into the campus of Austria′s first graduate university for technology and sciences, modelled after the Weizmann Institute of Israel and similar institutions. The "ISTA" (Institute of Science and Technology Austria) should help to fight the down-hill movement of academic achievements that the country struggles with since WWII. Thus, the institution was announced as an "elite university" in early 2006, almost two years before the construction work started. Give it time and we will see…
Franz Kafka died in another suburb of Klosterneuburg, called Kierling, in 1924. The former Sanatorium Hoffmann now hosts flats, but there is a tiny memorial site of rather modest appeal.
Contemporary Art: Sammlung Essl
A much more significant attraction of Klosterneuburg is the Sammlung Essl, which occupies its very own art museum by the Danube. It is Austria′s biggest private collection of contemporary art. In a way, it perfectly supplements the other "big two" private collections: The Liechtenstein (mostly Baroque) and Leopold (mostly Modern).
Karlheinz Essl is the founder of bauMax, a chain of do-it-yourself and garden centres. Their collection was originally meant to be housed in the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, but after a long - and typically Austrian - argument about the architecture of the museum. In the end, the Essl′s were fed-up and another museum was built in Klosterneuburg, where they live and where bauMax has its headquarter.
The collection is mostly dedicated to post-war Austrian artists, and much emphasis is put on specifically "Austrian" movements: The Wiener Aktionismus (consisting mostly of public defecation, bleeding and sexual acts in the 1960ies), the Phantastischer Surrealismus (a more "figural" style of painting to counter-point abstract mainstream, sort of Hieronymus Bosch on LSD. Most important artists include Arik Brauer, Friendsreich Hundertwasser and Ernst Fuchs, the latter one being my favourite), as well as important individuals like Maria Lassnig. Beyond that, the collection features a wide array of international contemporary artists.
If you plan on going to Klosterneuburg, I recommend to spend half a day in the city and the monastery and half a day in the Sammlung Essl. Since the train ride takes only a few minutes, half-day-trips for only one of these aspects are quite feasible. Note that for the Sammlung Essl, you should hop off at Klosterneuburg-Weidling station, for the city centre and the monastery at Klosterneuburg-Kierling.
Return to "Klosterneuburg - Part I"