• Mika Vepsalainen

Belvedere 21 - Modern Art in a Fancy Box to Top up the Belvedere Museums

Join us for a visit to The Venue in Vienna for contemporary art, film and music at an urban meeting point, an architectural icon of post-war modernism.


Padhi Frieberger: Schweinealtar (nach kultischen Objekten aus Neuguinea), before 1990

Belvedere 21 is not only of great architectural interest, but also the place to go for Austrian art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Karl Schwanzer's modernist steel and glass building was first known in Austria as 21er Haus or das Einundzwangiger Haus but it was actually built for the Austrian pavilion at the Expo 58 in Brussels. It was moved afterwards to Vienna to house the Museum of the 20th century - hence the name. After the 2009 - 2011 renovation it was renamed 21er Haus. Since 2018, it is Belvedere 21.


A lightweight structure with a 40 on 40 metre box, the pavilion rests entirely on four buttresses to create a floating effect for which Schwanzer got the Grand Prix d’Architecture. His minimalism is a true masterpiece of modern architecture given that it was created more than ten years before Mies van der Rohe presented his flexible interiors and transparent walls.


The Museum of the 20th century opened in Vienna on 20 September 1961 and immediately became the hotspot of the Viennese art scene with visitors commenting that “one automatically felt as if on foreign territory when entering the museum”.


In 2002 the Museum became part of the Austrian Gallery Belvedere but due to a lack of funds for restructuring, the cultural heritage site stood empty till 2008. Some 32 million Euros were then poured in to modernise the steel structure, clean the ceilings of asbestos and make the glass door shatterproof resulting in Minister Claudia Schmied awarding the Museum the BC21 Art Award for young, innovative artists in 2011. The cinema room has still the original Expo 58 seating and paneling.


Together with a really fancy restaurant, an excellent art shop and an art studio for children, the Museum is a great place to visit. It focuses on Austrian art of the 20th and 21st century and visitors are offered an interesting overview of the Austrian art of the last 70 years including the permanent exhibits of the Wotruba Foundation with 500 works in stone, bronze and plaster, 2500 drawings and 1500 prints. Check the programmes and take some time for your visit to enjoy the performative shows, film screenings, specialist lectures, concerts and artist talks.


The museum shop, the Salon für Kunstbuch is an installation by Bernhard Chella and worth visiting irrespective if you are looking for a coffee table book, a funny gift to the odd nephew or a serious book about modern art. After your museum visit, Lucy Bar 21 invites you for a cup or a meal in a lovely decor worth a visit on its own!


The sculpture garden at Belvedere 21 presents works by internationally renowned artists. Just walk though the bar after your glass of wine and go to the sculpture garden. You can also access the garden any time and free of charge during the Museum's opening hours via the new entrance from the Schweizergarten behind the museum.


In 2013, Heimo Zobernig created five stage-like concrete bases in the garden. These bases have become an integral part of the overall architecture. Currently, you will find there works by Fritz Wotruba from his estate. The standing and reclining figures cover his work from the 1950s to the 1970s and illustrates his efforts to combine figure and architecture. Together with the large figure relief for Brussels (1957), on permanent loan from mumok (see our separate review), this selection forms a concentrated retrospective of Wotruba's work.


The Museum is fully accessible with a barrier-free toilet. Take the lift down to the basement and you will find the loos there, next to the beautiful lockers. The museum has also a disabled parking space, should you need one.


Belvedere 21

Arsenalstraße 1, 1030 Wien

https://www.belvedere.at