Eliasson’s Baroque Baroque

The Belvedere‘s Winter Palacean unexpected exhibition space for contemporary art, steeped in its own historical importance and architectural marvel, is the current container for Olafur Eliasson‘s Baroque Baroque. The show, which is a selection of installations on loan from TBA21 and The Juan & Patricia Vergez Collection (Buenos Aires), runs until March 6, 2016, and is well worth the €9 entrance fee.

The early 18th-century palace, designed by Fischer von Erlach for Prince Eugene of Savoy, had housed the federal Finance Ministry since 1919. It was meticulously refurbished and restored to its original Baroque grandeur from 2007 to 2013 and subsequently given over to the Belvedere Museums. The imperial opulence of these staterooms is an impossibly perfect setting to showcase the selected works of Eliasson. Against the heavy weight of the almost gaudy Baroque relics, the Danish-Icelandic artist challenges his viewer to adjust preconceived conceptions about space and self.

As you climb the main entry staircase, Eliasson washes you out with a monochrome yellow light; one’s 21st-century self loses all contemporary color, becoming a part of the Baroque facade through the magical illusion of Eliasson’s art. This startling effect prepares the viewer for the thrust of the show that demands, through the forced interplay of the new and old, that we adjust our understanding of representation and “reception.”

Color, reflection and simple geometrical shape share the stage with the viewer in making the art that fills the stately rooms; guests become integral components in Eliasson’s installations, as we are invited to play with our own image against the thick swirls of Baroque interior design. One is forced to acknowledge the elaborate facade of art, extrapolating the message to other themes flecked throughout the show: government, imperialism, technology and urban spaces.

Mirrors, swerving spotlights, and garish lights blend with the damask wallpaper (selected by the Empress Maria Theresa) to destabilize one’s sense of perception, invoking questions about the interplay between “then and now”.

A perfect escape for a wintery afternoon, this show pairs extravagant 17th century Baroque ornamentation with the simplicity of contemporary design and materials (plastics and sleek metals) for a startling impact.

Olafur Eliasson
The Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy (Winterpalais)
1., Himmelpfortgasse 8, Vienna

On view daily from 10:00 to 18:00, through March 6, 2016.

For the next couple of months we will exchange ideas and blog posts with Metropole. This guest post is by Lyndsay Kirkham.

Lyndsay Kirkham is a writer, social media maverick and educator. You can find her words at The Mary Sue, The Frisky, Broken Pencil, The Daily Beast, The Establishment, The Daily Dot, and a stack of other print and digital publications. She tweets at @Lyndsay_Kirkham about unicorns, tattoos and feminism. She’s fierce, so watch out.

picture credits: pixabay

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