Contemporary art in Admont Abbey

Admont Abbey Museum and Library - Children in the Museum of Contemporary Art © Thomas Sattler

Tradition & innovation in dialogue

 

In 1997, the Admont Abbey started building a collection of contemporary art. This initiative was closely tied to the simultaneous redesign of the outdated museum that began in the same year. After five years of reconstruction, the museum was reopened in 2003. The current museum, equipped according to the latest international standards, 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, a Gothic Museum featuring the permanent exhibition "Sammlung Mayer" since 2017, natural history collections, multimedia stations, and changing special exhibitions. The highlight of the visit to the abbey is the world's largest monastery library with its 70,000 volumes. Completed in 1776, the Admont Abbey Library is one of the most significant total works of art in European late Baroque.

Together with the other departments, the "Museum of Contemporary Art" forms the platform for the presentation of diverse positions of contemporary art in ever-changing combinations and new relational contexts. This is one of the reasons why the Museum of Admont Abbey was awarded with the "Austrian Museum Prize 2005" (State Prize). In the jury's justification, it was stated: "The museum of Admont Abbey has, far beyond the usual scope of abbey museums, charted new paths [...] Particularly noteworthy is the connection of modern art with ancient cultural heritage, which sets unexpected accents in the exciting exhibition design. This represents a new approach in dealing with and conveying contemporary art. Therefore, the museum of Admont Abbey serves as a role model for other Austrian museums."
The foundation of the contemporary art collection is comprised of acquisitions from Austrian artists who, at that time, belonged to the younger and middle generations. The opening exhibitions were enthusiastically received by the art scene. "Like in hardly any other private museum, the cream of the crop of Austrian contemporary art is represented in the Admont Abbey Museum," as judged by "Der Standard" on May 30, 2003.
The continuously expanding contemporary art collection of Admont Abbey now comprises over 1000 works by approximately 200 predominantly Austrian artists. In the initial years of collecting, a substantial collection of works by representatives of the "New Painting in Austria" was acquired. This includes works by artists such as 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 plays a central role in the formation of the image.

Admont Abbey Museum and Library - Child in the Museum of Contemporary Art © Thomas Sattler
Styrian roots Hubert Schmalix . The Juenger . 1994 scaled

As a result of strong connections to the art scene, a new and exciting situation quickly emerged. In the year 2000, prior to the opening of the new museum, Lois Renner (1961-2021), then considered the "most modern painter in Austria," was invited as the first "Artist in Residence" to Admont Abbey. Renner arrived at the monastery with the model "Festung" from his Salzburg artist studio and the associated repertoire of miniature objects. Through continuous rearrangement, he documented the mobile model in its new environment. This marked the birth of the MADE FOR ADMONT line.
For over two decades, as part of the MADE FOR ADMONT commissioned art initiative, artists have been regularly invited to participate in a constructive dialogue on equal terms at Admont Abbey. The strict and narrow term "commissioned art" doesn't quite capture the essence of the matter. Instead, both sides act as partners, bringing their worlds into contact and allowing them to interact – with the aim of initiating an artistic process. Over the past two decades, numerous outstanding series of works have emerged from these encounters. Reciprocal impulses were created, generating added value for both parties. A unique collection has evolved as a result.
A central role in the MADE FOR ADMONT line is played by the medium of photography. The numerous artworks created in Admont are the result of specific processes of situating, with reference to the region, the monastery, the people working here, the museum and its contents. In several series of works, the Admont monks take on a significant role. Lois Renner, for instance, has already created a portrait of the then Abbot Bruno Hubl in the monastery library. Erwin Wurm created a photo cycle titled "Brothers & Sisters", which was realized for the Museum at Admont Abbey in 2002. In this project, two Admont monks acted as "One Minute Sculptures". Rudi Molacek, on the occasion of the opening of the new museum in 2003, created a portrait of Admont Abbey titled "Admont". Among the 100 black-and-white photos, you can find portraits not only of individuals relevant to the museum from the art sector but also of staff members of the institution, including the abbot and monks. In 2006, Konrad Rainer created a series of large-format monochromatic photo portraits of the Admont Benedictines with technical perfection. In the same year, there was an intense exchange through conversations and encounters between artists and the convent during the creation of the photo series "overall" (#1 to #4) by Judith Huemer. This series explores the question of the value of individuality within a monastic community. Identifying features such as faces and bodies disappear in the folds of the cowls.
A special module of the MADE FOR ADMONT collection is the special exhibition "BEYOND SIGHT. Art connects the Blind and the Sighted." It currently consists of 27 exhibits designed specifically for both sighted and blind individuals. They see themselves as autonomous islands, ready to be conquered with all the senses. Touching is allowed and recommended. The spectrum ranges from simple sculptural to highly complex multimedia works. This collection has been in progress since 2002 and was first presented in its entirety at the Admont Abbey Museum in 2012. As a loan, the collection was hosted at the "Contemporary Art Center Winzavod" in Moscow in 2013/14. It was a significant art event that made a considerable impact, with repeated visits, engagement from associations for the blind, school classes, and children joyfully introducing their parents and grandparents to contemporary art.

 

A fixed component of the annually changing exhibition program was the ARTISTIC INTERVENTIONS. They had their own space in the former Art History Museum (2003-2023), which was re-conceptualized during the anniversary year and relocated to the ground floor. This space was a site of resonant relationships, a special dialogue space between the sacred and the profane, the expected and the unexpected. Transformations and processes. The invited artists have consistently surprised with their incredibly multifaceted and complex artistic solutions, relating to Admont Abbey and its 950-year cultural memory.
The characteristic dialogue found throughout the entire museum is also evident in the Natural History Museum. Works of contemporary art presented there engage in diverse ways with the theme of nature and natural history collections. They correspond and contrast with the historical specimens in the museum. Often, these artworks result from an invitation as part of the ADMONT GUESTS program.
In the last two decades, ADMONT GUESTS have included various sacred, secular, public, and private collections. Among them were, for instance, the "Sammlung Prinzhorn" from Heidelberg. A particular highlight in 2014 was the special exhibition "KÜNSTLERBÜCHER _ ARTISTS’ BOOKS. International Exhibits from 1960 to Today", featuring works from eight renowned collections in Austria and Germany.
Contemporary art continues to be present in the Natural History Museum, the new Art History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as in the special exhibition during the anniversary year 2024 in the new exhibition spaces on the first floor.

Artistic intervention 2017Marcel Peda 4
Herbert Brandl Styrian roots
Admont Abbey Museum and Library - Children in the Museum of Contemporary Art © Thomas Sattler
Admont Abbey Kurt Ryslavy c Michael Braunsteiner www
Contemporary art
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Children's Museum c Thomas Sattler www
Children's Museum c Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Museum and Library - Child in the Museum of Contemporary Art © Thomas Sattler
Children's Museum c Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
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Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www
Exhibition Locations 2020470 scaled e1627501445518
View of the exhibition with the series K9 Compassion by Zlatko Kopljar 2004
PLAY ART . BEYOND SIGHT. c Barbara Eisner B scaled
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