The MAK celebrates 150 years with an important Viennese design exhibition.

Modernism Vienna Style

Celebrating its 150th anniversary, The MAK—Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art—opened its doors in December with the current exhibition Ways to Modernism: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Their Impact, portraying the development of Viennese modernism and its ongoing resonance. On display are key works by modernist forerunners Theophil von Hansen and Otto Wagner, as well as pieces by modernist advocates like Josef Frank, Oskar Strnad, and Ernst Plischke, plus designs by postmodernist designers who drew on the legacy.

Especially interesting is the juxtaposition of the quite divergent ideals in architecture, design and art, that emerged from the industrialization and democratization of Austria. These are represented in the oeuvres of Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos. Hoffmann, co-founder of the Vienna Secession, understood architecture and design as modern art. As such, he composed fully fitted environments and sought the creation of a "Gesamtkunstwerk" (total works of art). Loos, on the other hand, believed that modern art was autonomous and seperated from everyday buildings and household items. Therefore he believed it to be his duty to provide architecture and functional designs that were the best means to an end, clearing space for the consumer's individuality.

Hoffmann's aesthetically elaborated and Loos' purely functional approaches were both spectacular at the time and formed important contributions to the direction and purpose of design in the 20th century and beyond.

Portal of the telegram office of Die Zeit by Otto Wagner (reconstruction by Adolf Krischanitz and Otto Kapfinger), 1902/1985. © Wien Museum

Fabric Design from Josef Frank for the Wiener Werkstätte, ca. 1918. Image © MAK/Georg Mayer

Working Woman's Apartment by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (design), desk and wall unit, exhibition in Essen, 1927. Image © University of Applied Arts Vienna, Collection and Archive

MAK Exhibition View, 2014. Ways to Modernism: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Their Impact. Bedroom by Adolf Loos in the Lina and Adolf Loos apartment, Vienna, 1st district, Bösendorferstraße 3, 1903 (reconstruction). Image © Peter Kainz/MAK

MAK Exhibition View, 2014: Ways to Modernism. Josef Frank, Adolf Loos and their Impact. Bedroom by Josef Hoffmannin the Johanna and Dr. Johannes Salzer apartment, 1902 (reconstruction). Image © MAK/Georg Mayer

Adolf Loos' design for the dining room of the Haberfeld apartment, Vienna, 1899. Image © Albertina, Wien

Espresso service by Josef Hoffmann, produced by Wiener Werkstätte & Ploll Collection, 1904. Image © MAK/Georg Mayer

Pillowcase design by Josef Hoffmann, 1909. Image courtesy of MAK

Table lamp by Adolf Loos from the Turnowsky residence, ca. 1900. Hummel collection, Vienna. Image © MAK/Georg Mayer

Chair by Adolf Loos for Café Museum, Vienna, 1899. Image © MAK/Georg Mayer

The exhibition runs until April 19th, 2015. If you get the chance, you should definitely go so see this one!

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