Giant hat pins and other fantasy objects: Gironcoli

The other day I was finally able to visit the exhibition Shy at Work, an extensive selection of works by Bruno Gironcoli at the MUMOK.   A couple of these objects are on display in the public space in front of the MUMOK – you can´t have missed them if you have passed through the Museumsquartier lately.

MUMOK Outside
Two large sculptures by Austrian artist Bruno Gironcoli stand in the public area outside the MUMOK.

Fantastic objects in two and three dimensions

These shiny sculptures are anything but boring.  Ranging from simple furniture-like objects to something that reminded me of Asian Lingams, to fantastic machine-like sculptures that evoke medieval torture devices or futuristic utopias.  (These are just my own amateurish impressions on seeing them.) Gironcoli was trained as a goldsmith, and so it is no wonder that his art works hues reflect this: the predominant colors are gold, silver, bronze.  Interestingly though, many of his later sculptures are not made of metal, but of polyester.  Gironcoli was fascinated by the shapes and functions of packaging in a modern consumerist world, which mask the real value of a product.  He also used cast aluminum in some sculptures.


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Many of his sculptures also include a classic sculpture theme, the seated figure; for Gironcoli the so-called Murphy, inspired by the eponymous character of Samuel Beckett.


Hat pins
“Hat Pin 1” and “Hat Pin 2” (1989/91) in cast aluminum in show cases include the often used “Murphy figures”. Imagine wearing that on your hat!

Beyond the sculptures, there are many two-dimensional art works on display here. In his works  on paper, Gironcoli uses mixed techniques and drawings, and the drawings appear almost three-dimensional.   He “animates” his own plastic works on paper, according to the exhibition catalogue at MUMOK.


Whether he considered them design drafts or not,  really all of these are works of art in their own right.   (Dog lovers take note: I noticed quite a few dogs in his drawings, some endearingly named “Fluschi” (something akin to fluffy). 🙂 )

The painting of a blue dog is a design Gironcoli called “Blue Flushi (Dog)” (1989/91). He used metal powder paint, ink, gouache, and pencil on graph paper.



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Too short an artist´s life

Bruno Gironcoli was not, as the name might imply, Italian, but Austrian.  He was born in Villach in 1936 and later studied painting and sculpture at the University of Applied Art in Vienna and later became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts.  Not his first, but the first large exhibition of his works was shown in the 1980s at the Museum of the 20th Century in Vienna.    In 1993 he was awarded the Great Austrian State Prize for art.  He died at the age of 73 in Vienna.


Multi-part figure
Gironcoli was quite interested in electricity that moves and connects things. In “Multi-Part Figure with White Lilies” (1968) he meant to stimulate associations with “charged” rituals, death, religion, perhaps the link between possible injury and death.


If you want to see this one, you have to be quick, the show ends on 3 June!  It really is an impressive exhibition.

However, if you cannot make it, there is another chance to see Gironcoli´s art.  The STRABAG Kunstforum has a permanent collection of sculptures and works on paper of Bruno Gironcoli.  it is called GIRONCOLI-Kristall  and features nine huge polyester sculptures.  Or, if you care to go for a longer distance excursion, you can see his works at the Gironcoli Museum at Herberstein Castle. (I have not been there myself, but I will be sure to plan a stop there when I am in that region.)

P.S. If you are seeing this via the newsletter, click on the web link to see the slide shows.


More information

  • The Austrian Mediathek has some older audio documentaries on various exhibitions of Gironcoli´s work.
  • The excellent exhibition catalogue of the MUMOK is free and provides lots of information on individual pieces shown here. Much of my information stetms from this source.

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