An art salon in a princely collection

In what I would call an eye-popping exhibition space with walls in blazing red, blue and green (I love it!), the Albertina Museum is showing masterpieces from the Princely Collections of the House of Liechtenstein in an exhibition titled “From Rubens to Makart“.  The Liechtenstein collections contain major works of European art spanning five centuries and are among the most important private collections in the world, still continuing to expand today.

This past week I was invited to a Social Conference and  got a tour of a selection of outstanding works of art. The exhibition celebrates the 300 year anniversary of the Principality of Liechtenstein and shows more than 110 outstanding pieces from the private princely collection.

Inviting you in, to see “Rubens to Makart”, Peter Paul Rubens´ little daughter Clara Serena, around 1616


The princesses and princes of Liechtenstein have been collecting art passionately for more than 400 years, and it shows.   Luckily the Liechtenstein family evacuated the art collection to the neutral Principality of Liechtenstein during the last weeks of World War II, so that none of the works were damaged.  The family had to sell some major big-name (think Leonardo, Canaletto…) pieces  off in the financially tough post-war years, but  in recent decades under the reign of the current Prince of Liechtenstein the collection has been augmented again considerably.


The current collection is truly remarkable.   Many major works of art are represented in this exhibition, from the Italian Renaissance to Flemish Baroque, including, as the exhibition title implies, numerous paintings by Peter Paul Rubens,  all the way to works from the Viennese Biedermeier and Historicism periods.



For a look at additional paintings, have a look at the gallery below (works in a web browser, possibly not on a mobile device).


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Discussing art with a drag queen

Last week I went to the same exhibition twice!  Not something I would normally do, but I had a good reason:  On Friday, the Albertina had the first art salon hosted by a drag queen, the “Salon Kümmernis“. 


The Kümmernis in technicolor 🙂 – welcoming participants to the first ever drag-queen-led art salon at the Albertina.


If you go to art museums regularly, you may know that the Kümmernis is a very interesting and charismatic art expert and educator, usually at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.  Last year I had a chance to experience my first guided tour with said drag queen at the KHM, and I loved it.   So when I learned of this new concept of an art salon, I jumped at the chance to participate (got there extra early to make sure I would not be left out, as it was not possible to reserve tickets ahead of time).

I thought it wonderful how the Kümmernis allowed everyone to offer suggestions and views on questions about the meaning behind works of art, about the whys of particular colours used, or about the effects of certain techniques.  Why, for example, are St. Sebastian´s privates veiled, and why does one appear so meek and the other so virile?  And would you hang a nude painting in your apartment, and if so, what kind, and where?



We were invited to view the works from up close and from different angles and to see how that might affect our perception.  What is noticeable about the colors in this painting?  What impression does the lady convey on the viewer – does she want to be approached?  Is she sad? Devout?  Where did Makart use the colour red in this otherwise almost monochrome brown painting?  Why is it so brown?



These and many other fascinating questions came up, and I think that if you go to the next salon, even if the Kümmernis chooses to discuss the same paintings, other questions would arise, because where the discussion goes all depends on the participants.

By the way, running in parallel to Rubens to Makart there is an exhibition of watercolor paintings from the Princely Collections of Liechtenstein: Rudolf von Alt and his time.  I have not had a chance to see that yet, but I plan to.

Thank you for the nice tour and reception, Albertina Museum,  and thank you for the fascinating salon, dear enchanting Kümmernis!

Sources: Albertina website, press information, guided tour, Wikipedia


The exhibition is on view from 16 February 2019 until 10 June 2019.  

  • Guided tour by the Albertina curator, Laura Ritter, on 6 March at 5.30 pm (first come, first served)

  • Further art salons with the Kümmernis on 29 March, 26 April and 31 May at 5.30 pm (also first come, first served)

  • While a selection of works is on display at the Albertina, the Gartenpalais (garden palace) and Stadtpalais (city palace) in Vienna, which permanently house a part of the collection as well, will be open for special tours (prebooking required) and events. 


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