There is a rustling in the bush, birds are chirping, rosebushes and grass are growing unchecked in the garden. Only the noise of a construction site reminds you that you are in the middle of the city. The Villa Mautner-Jäger is located next to new buildings on Landstrasser Hauptstrasse. The turn-of-the-century villa is striking not only for its architectural style, but above all for its crumbling facade, ivy-covered roof and dirty and dusty windows. If you stand inside and look up, you’ll see loose cables and cracks in the ceiling. If you look ahead, you see paintings, photographs, sculptures.
Artistic interim use
For a long time, where there is art, there was nothing. Or rather: nobody. Because the listed villa has not been inhabited for around ten years. As the owners of the house changed over the years, the villa fell into disrepair. That is about to change now, a real estate company is renovating the house built in 1902 and turning it back into a luxury villa. Until then, Node Contemporary will fill the empty rooms and the garden with temporary exhibitions and events.
The villa was built according to the plans of the Viennese architect Gustav Neumann and has been a listed building since 1991. With her temporary use, Ema Kaiser, founder of Node Contemporary, wants to continue the salon culture that has existed here in the past: the client of the villa was Hertha Jäger from the industrial family Mautner-Markhof. She was active in the women’s movement, networked in the Vienna Secession – her brothers-in-law were the Secession artists Josef Engelhart and Kolo Moser – and made the property a meeting place for the scene. Or as Kaiser put it at the opening of the exhibition “Once upon a time… today”: The villa was once the “Bermuda Triangle of Art”. Reiner Opoku, who curated the group exhibition together with Kaiser, thinks it’s not easy to use a place that is so historically charged.
Oasis of calm in the garden
Not easy, but not impossible either: there is now a small sculpture by Erwin Wurm on the first floor, large-format paintings by Theo Altenberg adorn the cracked wallpaper and photographs by David LaChapelle bring color to the otherwise gray room. In the foreground of the exhibition, says Opoku, is the building, the artists were invited to deal with the rooms, he explains the concept. Strolling through the group exhibition over the creaking floor, one cannot help but also look at the old dumbwaiter or the Viktorin kitchen stove and risk a look through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
From there you can see the deep green garden where the exhibition continues. The sculpture made of polished stainless steel by Hans Kupelwieser reflects the rich green and the pink and red tones of the flowers that surround it. But there is much more to discover when you stroll through the garden. A former bowling alley, for example, which is housed in an outbuilding. Or an empty swimming pool, the bottom of which is covered with leaves. Or you close your eyes and forget for a moment that you are in a big city.
Insight until autumn
The exhibition “Once upon a time… today” is still on until July 15, 2023 to be seen in the Villa Mautner-Jäger. To visit them, it is necessary to register on the Node Contemporary website and then sign up for a timeslot. The places are limited due to the high demand, according to Node Contemporary. The villa will probably be used artistically until autumn and is therefore open to the public. After that, the conversion begins, turning the property from a public place for art into a private property.
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