Exhibition VERORTUNGEN Room Lois Renner www

Contemporary art in Admont Abbey



In 1997, Admont Abbey began to build up a collection of contemporary art. The timing was directly related to the redesign of the outdated museum, which began in the same year. After five years of remodelling, it was reopened in 2003. The current museum, equipped according to the latest international criteria, extends over three floors and the attic. It offers surprising diversity: manuscripts and early prints, sacred and secular art from the Middle Ages to the present day, a Gothic museum with the permanent exhibition of the "Mayer Collection" since 2017, natural history collections, multimedia stations and changing special exhibitions. The highlight of a visit to the monastery is the largest monastery library in the world with its 70,000 volumes. Completed in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is one of the most important works of art of the European late Baroque period. 

Together with the other departments, the "Museum of Contemporary Art" forms the platform for the presentation of diverse positions of contemporary art in ever new combinations and new fields of relationship. This is one of the reasons why the Museum of Admont Abbey was awarded the "Austrian Museum Prize 2005" (State Prize). The jury's statement said: "The Museum of Admont Abbey has broken new ground, far beyond what is usual in abbey museums [...] Above all, the combination of modern art with old cultural artefacts, which sets unexpected accents in the exciting exhibition design, is magnificent. This is a new approach to dealing with and communicating contemporary art. This makes the Admont Abbey Museum exemplary for other Austrian museums." 

The cornerstone of the "Contemporary Art Collection" is formed by purchases from Austrian artists who were part of the younger and middle generation at the time. The opening exhibitions were enthusiastically received by the art scene. "The crème de la crème of Austrian contemporary art is represented in the Admont Abbey Museum like in hardly any other private museum," wrote Der Standard. The continuously growing "Collection of Contemporary Art" at Admont Abbey now consists of over 1000 works by around 200 predominantly Austrian artists. In contrast to other ecclesiastical collections of contemporary art, the Admont collection does not emphasise sacred content. In the first years of the collection's existence, a considerable number of works by representatives of "New Painting in Austria" were acquired. These include works by Siegfried Anzinger, Erwin Bohatsch, Herbert Brandl, Gunter Damisch, Alfred Klinkan, Alois Mosbacher, Hubert Scheibl, Hubert Schmalix, Walter Vopava, Otto Zitko and others. For these artists - whether abstract or figurative - painting per se plays a central role in the creation of images. 

Exhibition VERORTUNGEN Room Lois Renner www
Admont Abbey Museum opening 2019 16

As a result of the good contacts to the art scene, an exciting new situation quickly arose. In 2000, even before the opening of the new museum, Lois Renner (1961-2021), the "most modern painter in Austria" at the time, was invited to Admont Abbey as the first "Artist in Residence". Renner came to the monastery with the "Fortress" model from his Salzburg artist studio and the associated repertoire of miniature objects. He documented the mobile model in its new environment, permanently reorganising it. This was the birth of the MADE FOR ADMONT programme. 

For over two decades now, artists have been regularly invited to the monastery for a constructive dialogue at eye level as part of the MADE FOR ADMONT art commissions. The strict and narrow term "commissioned art" doesn't really apply. Rather, both sides always act as partners who bring their worlds into contact and allow them to react to each other - with the aim of setting an artistic process in motion. Over the last two decades, numerous great series of works have emerged from these encounters. Mutual impulses have been created and added value has been generated for both sides. And a collection of their own has emerged. 

The medium of photography plays a central role in the MADE FOR ADMONT programme. The numerous works of art created in Admont are the result of specific localisation processes relating to the region, the monastery and the people who work here, the museum and its contents. The Admont monks play a leading role in several series of works. Lois Renner had already created a portrait of the then Abbot Bruno Hubl in the abbey library. Erwin Wurm created a photo cycle entitled "Brothers & Sisters", which was realised in 2002 for the museum in Admont Abbey. For this, two Admont monks acted as "One Minute Sculptures". On the occasion of the opening of the new museum in 2003, Rudi Molacek realised a portrait of Admont Abbey under the title "Admont". The 100 b/w photos include portraits of people from the art world relevant to the museum as well as employees of the building, including the abbot and monks. In 2006, Konrad Rainer produced a series of large-format monochrome photo portraits of the Admont Benedictines with technical perfection. In the same year, Judith Huemer created the photo series "overall" (#1 to #4), which involved intensive dialogue and encounters between artists and the convent. Here, the question of the value of individuality in a monastic community is explored. Identification features such as faces and bodies disappear in the folds of the cowls.

A special MADE FOR ADMONT collection module is the special collection "JENSEITS DES SEHENS. Art connects blind and sighted people". It currently consists of 27 exhibits that have been specially designed for sighted and blind people. They see themselves as autonomous islands, ready to be explored with all the senses. Touching is allowed and recommended. The spectrum ranges from simple sculptural to highly complex multimedia works. This collection has been under construction as a "collection in progress" since 2002. It was first shown in its entirety at the Admont Abbey Museum in 2012. In 2013/14, the collection was on loan to the "Contemporary Art Centre Winzavod" in Moscow. An art event that made waves - with repeated visits, with associations for the blind and school classes as well as with children who opened up access to the art of our time to their parents and grandparents with relish. 

PLAY ART . BEYOND SIGHT. c Barbara Eisner B scaled

The "Artistic Interventions" were a fixed component of the annually changing exhibition programme from 2003 to 2023. A separate room in the old Kunsthistorisches Museum was dedicated to them, which was redesigned and moved to the ground floor in the course of the anniversary year. This space was a place of resonant relationships, a special place of dialogue between the sacred and the profane, the expected and the unexpected. Transformations and processes. The artists invited so far have surprised us time and again - with their incredibly multi-layered and complex artistic solutions in their references to Admont Abbey with its now 950-year-old cultural memory.

The dialogue that is characteristic of the entire museum can also be found in the Natural History Museum. Works of contemporary art presented there deal with the theme of nature and natural history collections in a variety of ways. They correspond and contrast with the historical specimens there. They often result from an ADMONT GUESTS invitation.

ADMONT GUESTS in the last two decades have been various sacred, profane, public and private collections. These included the "Prinzhorn Collection" from Heidelberg and, as a special highlight in 2014, the special exhibition "ARTISTS' BOOKS _ ARTISTS' BOOKS. International exhibits from 1960 to the present day" with eight renowned collections from Austria and Germany. 

The art of our time can of course still be found in the Natural History Museum, in the new Art History Museum, in the Museum of Contemporary Art and in the special exhibition to mark the anniversary year 2024 in the new exhibition rooms on the first floor.

You can find out more about this in the Museum Newspaper 2024. 

Admont Abbey Museum opening 2019 16
Admont Abbey Museum opening 2019 15
Admont Abbey Museum opening 2019 17
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Styrian roots Hubert Schmalix . The Juenger . 1994 scaled
Hannes Schwarz - Exhibition
Herbert Brandl Styrian roots
Exhibition VERORTUNGEN Room Lois Renner www
FB20 Lois Renner