- Mika Vepsalainen
Bank Austria Kunstforum - Fancy Museum for Superb Art Exhibitions
Join us for a visit to the Bank Austria Kunstforum to see fancy exhibitions and a private collection of the bank in a great museum environment.
For more than 30 years, the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien has been there for extremely interesting first presentations, artists’ new approaches and innovative ways in art mediation.
The Bank Austria Kunstforum is the result of the cultural commitment of UniCredit Bank Austria. It works together with many famous museums such as Tate Modern and Royal Academy in London, Guggenheim Museum in New York, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and Kunsthaus Zürich and Fondation Beyeler in Basel thanks to which the forum can exhibit hugely interesting art with the main focus on classical modernism and avant-garde as well as female artists of the post-war period.
The exhibition space is a true architectural jewel housed in the neoclassical building on Freyung and corner of Renngasse. It was designed and built based on Ernst Gotthilf’s and Alexander Neumann’s design between 1914 and 1921.
As early as in the 1980's the Viennese folk actor Heinz Conrad recognized the potential of the then vacant banking halls and he suggested to use the place for exhibitions. The first one was housed in the empty premises of the former cashier's hall. The exhibition - Departure into Modernity - was actually a comprehensive show of Austria's culture and intellectual history from 1880 to 1980 and enjoyed immediately over 28,000 visitors.
A full conversion of the building into a modern museum began in 1989 and the museum was reopened in March 1990 with a highly acclaimed exhibition on Schiele. The entry portal of the building redesigned by Gustav Peichl is a work of art in itself. A golden ball above the entrance can be seen from afar.
The 100th anniversary exhibition of the Länderbank was overwhelming and as a result, the head of the Länderbank and later Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky decided to establish a permanent exhibition hall. In 1988, Gustav Peichl converted the Forum into what was then the most modern exhibition hall in Austria. "Egon Schiele and his time" opened the Forum in March 1989 and it was the first major appearance of the Leopold Collection and one of the initial sparks for today's Leopold Museum (see our review!).
Since 1990 the goal has been to present top international exhibitions of classical modern art: Schiele, Kokoschka, Turner, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Picasso, Miró, Malevich, Kandinsky, Chagall, Braque, Bonnard and many others. The Forum also sees itself also as a competence centre for women having had a large number of highly successful exhibitions over the years including Tamara de Lempicka, Frida Kahlo, Birgit Juergenssen, Meret Oppenheim, Georgia O'Keeffe, Flying High and The Cindy Sherman Effect.
Today the Forum has become a pioneer in innovative art mediation and is represented online with a strong digital offer in order to present art across geographical borders and to inspire new audiences. Many of the Forum’s publications have become standard works on art history. With an average of over 230,000 direct and 260 million indirect visits each year the Haus auf der Freyung is now one of the ten most visited art exhibition organizers in Austria and one of the top 25 most popular tourist attractions in Vienna.
In April 2005, also the former bank vault was opened to present young, international art and to create a space for art education and intellectual debate. The works were based on designs by the architekturladen, which had already redesigned the museum shop in 2002. In March 2008 the Forum was renamed Bank Austria Kunstforum. In spring 2023, the Forum hosted Kiki Kogelnik's review "Now is the Time" and in the basement, Kay Walkowiak's "External now".
The museum is easily accessible with the main entrance approachable via a ramp. There are parking spaces for people with disabilities at the Feyung underground garage with an elevator. There are no steps inside the main floor of the museum and there is a wheelchair accessible loo available.
The shop of the Kunstforum is a little wonder and definitely worth a visit on it own as it easily beats many a small book store in town. This is the place to find your art and coffee table books and highly recommended books for children!
Unfortunately, there is no café in the Kunsforum but irrespective of your leaving the museum towards Stephansplatz or Schottentor, you will find plenty of nice cafés to sit down and go through your art experience, tons of choice around!
Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien Freyung 8, 1010 Wien