Street art goes museum

The Wien Museum´s central location on Karlsplatz has now been emptied out in preparation or extensive renovation and reconstruction works that will start this fall.  Meanwhile though, the museum curators Karina Karadensky and Christine Koblitz had the excellent idea to make the walls of the museum available for street artists, who have painted all rooms with colorful murals.

The WEIRD. A joint mural by the artist and illustrator Frau Isa and the internationally renowned Austrian street artist Nychos.


So, why street art at a museum?  Isn´t that a contradiction in terms?  Street art – of which there are so many kinds nowadays – has traditionally been artwork executed in public spaces outside of the context of traditional art venues.  The Wien Museum had a different idea, and indeed the lines are not so strict, as several famous street artists have also had their work exhibited at museums.

Takeover street art and skateboarding

The Wien Museum has made available more than 2,000 square metres as a playground for street artists and skateboarders.   Skateboarders often play at skate parks that have been painted by street artists, and several street artists are also skateboarders, so the connection made sense.   You can find the Do-it-yourself (DIY) spaces on the ground floor while the first floor invites you to look at the “Hall of Fame”, where some thirty street art artists, who have shaped Vienna´s walls over the last 25 years, have painted brand new art works on the  museum walls.


I went to the opening and visited again today.  You can see a selection of the art on display in this blog.  On opening night, there were impressive displays of skateboarding, some of which I caught on camera too.



Where it all began

Its origins date back long ago, but modern street art became popular through New York City’s graffiti boom, starting in the 1960s and peaking with the spray-painted subway train murals of the 1980s in the Bronx.   The background was political activism, and also territorial markings of New York street gangs.  Graffiti became one of the elements of hip-hop culture.  But in the 1970s and 80s it began moving into the art world as well (e.g. Keith Haring, Basquiat, Banksy are some famous representatives).  Nowadays  the term street art  distinguishes contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, among others.   Of course it seems to me the lines are sometimes blurry.   There are some artists who use their art as a  way to raise awareness of social and political issues, and others “just” want to utilize public space to reach a much broader audience than would be possible in a gallery or museum, or to be able to show their work at all.

Artwork by Golif


Public acceptance

Although for a long time, street art operated mainly “underground”, in secret (and sometimes still does), it has become more accepted by the general public.  This is evident in the great interest in urban districts filled with street art, as a glance at Instagram using the hashtag #streetart will demonstrate.  In many European cities you can now book sightseeing or photography walks dedicated entirely to the exploration of the local street art scene.


Artwork by Frau Isa


In Vienna, there is even a street art guide, Vienna Murals, where you can read up on and locate street art all over the city on a map.  They also have an instagram page, where you can look at some of the many murals they have documented.  Another good source is the IGersAustria Art Ambassador  @famiglia_vienna, who knows just about all there is to know about the Austrian street art scene.



For more images, please have a look at the slideshow below (does not work on all devices).

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I recommend taking advantage of the free entry to the Wien Museum Karlsplatz location until the 1st of September and looking at the “hall of fame” of Viennese street artists, or bringing your skateboard if you are so inclined.  And dog owners take heart, here is your chance to bring your dog to the museum – it is exceptionally allowed to enter with a four-legged friend.

But be aware that a visit is possible only Thu-Sun and on public holidays, and only from 2 p.m. onwards.    Not knowing this, we arrived at 1 p.m. and found closed doors.  But no harm done, we whiled away the time at a nearby café with some iced coffee 🙂


There is more to the Wien Museum than Karlsplatz

If you are sad that the Karlsplatz location is going to close its doors soon, do not despair.  There are sooo many more locations belonging to the Wien Museum, it is even difficult to cover them all in a “museum year”!  Just the other day I went to a highly interesting special guided tour of the Karl-Marx-Hof, which was also sponsored by the Wien Museum (I plan to write a blog about this at another time).

Sources: Website of the Wien Museum, Wikipedia


One more thing: The Wien Museum is looking for sponsors in a crowdfunding campaign.  You can adopt your own little piece of Vienna now – well, actually of a model of the city.  The impressive paper model of Vienna’s first district, which was created in 1898 on the occasion of Emperor Francis Joseph’s 50th crown jubilee, is in need of extensive conservation work.  So if you want to support this project, you can do so via the Wienmuseum wesite.  (No, I am not being paid to advertise this.)


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