IN SEARCH OF THE DIVINE
Art. Narrative, constant, searching. For the divine? "Yes, it can also be an expression of this," says Father Michael Robitschko. The Benedictine monk is Admont Abbey's art and culture officer and provides an insight into what is probably Austria's most contrasting private museum.
Long live diversity. This is the slogan of the Admont Abbey Museum and it hits the bull's eye. A museum of contemporary art, a natural history and art history museum, a Gothic exhibition, medieval manuscripts and early prints as well as the world's largest monastery library are all united under one roof. With this wide range of offerings, originality and development work, the Abbey Museum has already been able to assert itself against many well-known institutions and even won the Austrian Museum Prize in 2005. An award for which the "Made for Admont" programme was also a decisive factor. The idea behind it: To show art that is localised in Admont. The Austrian painter Lois Renner kicked things off in 2000.
The Made for Admont programme now includes hundreds of works by over 70 artists. In this interview, Father Michael Robitschko, Head of Art and Culture, explains why the company opted for commissioned art and what surprises the anniversary exhibition to mark the 950th anniversary of the Benedictine Abbey of Admont has in store.
The collection of contemporary art also includes many works that are "Made for Admont". Why does the Abbey Museum commission art?
The church was once an important patron of the arts and therefore also a source of culture. Many important works that we can admire today were created because the church gave artists the opportunity to develop. We wanted to revive this patronage and thus promote the creation of contemporary art.
In addition to contemporary art, the Abbey Museum also exhibits sacred art from the Gothic period. A contradiction or the perfect complement?
Clearly the latter. In the Abbey Museum, sacred and modern art are not in competition, as it might seem at first glance. They are two contrasting worlds that come into contact with each other and enter into a dialogue. This encounter considerably enhances the experience of a museum visit. While old art conveys a clear message, contemporary art leaves plenty of room for interpretation. How we interpret modern works of art is often very individual and also depends on our own biography. Sometimes I think that this freedom of art is also an expression of the search. Perhaps also the search for the divine.
So art also offers the opportunity to engage with faith?
Absolutely. Each of our museum departments offers a different approach to faith. While the Natural History Museum focusses on creation, the Gothic exhibition speaks a clear visual language. Paintings and sculptures mainly deal with biblical scenes and are an expression of how strongly faith characterised the everyday lives of people in this era. And spirituality still plays a major role in art today. Albeit in a different way.
How does the Abbey Museum manage to set a new visitor record almost every year?
As the largest monastic library hall in the world, Admont Abbey Library is certainly a real crowd-puller. But I think it's the broad spectrum that we cover from the Gothic - and to some extent the Romanesque - to the present day that makes us so successful. Perhaps one reason why visiting museums is becoming increasingly popular is that people are longing for something permanent. Art therefore not only enables people to engage with many different themes, but also provides stability in fast-moving times.
What can visitors expect in the upcoming special exhibition?
I don't want to give too much away yet, but I will say this much: there will be a relaunch of almost all areas of the museum. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is moving to the ground floor. We will be presenting the special exhibition on the first floor. It will focus on our almost thousand-year history and thus also show how monks and people have lived and experienced faith over this long period.