Admont Abbey Special exhibition GWK (c) Thomas Sattler www

Museum of Contemporary Art - Kurt Ryslavy



open from 01 April to 01 Nov. 2023

The recently completed work shone with such a bright flash of light that I couldn't look at it fully.

No offence intended
Visibility, value and identity

For almost five decades, Kurt Ryslavy has used his artistic practice to pose questions about (art) value in both qualitative and quantitative terms. In order to make this topic visible, Ryslavy regularly conceives and realises solo exhibitions in which his works are presented alongside those of other artists. This makes it easier for recipients to recognise qualitative differences. Quantitative values can only rarely be recognised in view of the often ambiguous relationship between price and value. In a group exhibition instead of a solo exhibition, we would not necessarily ask ourselves why society values some artworks more than others in terms of higher prices.

Ryslavy's solo exhibitions trigger precisely such questions. His art thus serves as a yardstick and provides us with a starting point that raises the question of the aesthetic value of a work of art, be it artistic, cognitive or moral value. Although his solo exhibitions resemble an installation artwork, this categorisation does not apply because, like conventional exhibitions, they are disassemblable. Undoubtedly, Ryslavy's interest in visualisation, in exhibiting, reflects his long-standing role as a collector, as questions of visibility influence value, both quantitatively and qualitatively.


Kurt Ryslavy Photo Invitation www

The most basic way in which value is ascribed to a work of art is based on establishing a market value or selling price. However, only a small percentage of artworks, whether they are exhibited in studios, galleries or museums, and an even smaller percentage of all works created, actually have a market value. Exhibited artworks have an "insurance value", though not necessarily a market value, as only a seller (and not "the market") is necessarily required to determine the sale price. The art fair is even a place where every exhibited artwork is for sale. One could argue that those artworks that do not find buyers because of their price have no market value. For the sake of simplicity, the price of a work of art is referred to as its extrinsic value and its value, which arises among viewers in the sense of appreciation, astonishment, recognition or admiration, as intrinsic value. The word "work" refers to the intrinsic value of a work of art, which is why the use of the English term "work" as a shortened form for "artwork" is incorrect. The contemporary works of art stored in bonded warehouses, for example, do indeed lack "work" in the sense of confrontation, because admiration presupposes visibility.

Admont Abbey Kurt Ryslavy c Michael Braunsteiner www


Since every work of art has an intrinsic value, but relatively few have an extrinsic value, the intrinsic value will be discussed in more detail here. Think about the objects that are "on display" in your own home. You could probably explain why you admire, protect and even care for them, even if no one wants to buy them. We have chosen our possessions, so we value them, even if no one else recognises their specialness. Our choices reveal a lot about ourselves, and the way we present the objects that surround us privately reveals our identity. Ryslavy describes himself as a conceptual artist - perhaps he is the only conceptual artist in the world whose preferred medium is oil paint. Collectors who are aware of the relationship between presentation (visibility), value and identity work hard to create authentic identities and emphasise the intrinsic, intrinsic value of the artworks in their collection. Kurt Ryslavy's strategy is to bring these themes back into play with solo exhibitions.


Inspired by the slogan "200 pictures, large and small. No two themes are alike. Interesting for everyone", which was used to advertise Louis Michel Eilshemius' exhibition in New York City in 1911, Kurt Ryslavy realised the exhibition "110" 110 years later, for which he exhibited around 100 of his oil paintings "to go", wrapped and packed on the floor and leaning against the wall, grouped in three parts. The first group showed ten small paintings by the little-known Austrian painter Franz Schröckenfuchs (*1910 Leoben, †1987 Gratwein), whose paintings Ryslavy had been acquiring since 1982. As neither Schröckenfuchs nor Ryslavy were in a position to determine the price of these works of art, Ryslavy once suggested purchase prices based on everyday goods such as a loaf of bread or a kilo of beef. Three weeks after this exhibition, Ryslavy replaced Schröckenfuchs' paintings with 12 works from his art collection. Each artwork was accompanied by a hand-painted "label" that included the artist's name, the date of purchase, the provenance and Ryslavy's specific reason for buying the artwork. Six weeks later, Ryslavy exchanged these pairs for five artworks painted by his father. His father was a pharmacist by profession. To understand the decision of his son Kurt, who had given up studying pharmacy in favour of philosophy before becoming an artist, he had started painting himself at a mature age. What is even stranger is that Kurt Ryslavy's stepmother did not think to show him these paintings until 27 years after his father's death. Ryslavy himself estimated prices of 1200 to 2000 euros for his veiled paintings, but he considered Schröckenfuchs' paintings to be unaffordable. In the next group, no less than three of Ryslavy's veiled paintings could be purchased for €1,850 each, regardless of size. His hand-painted labels were priced 30 % higher at €2,720 per piece, but about 50 % smaller than the veiled paintings. His collected works were for sale, but the prices were not listed, and buyers were warned that no proof of purchase would be provided with the sale, presumably to protect the seller's reputation. For the third group, the decision not to quote a price was justified with the following ironic explanation: "The works by Kurt Ryslavy senior (1920-1992) have no market value. The wrapped paintings by Kurt Ryslavy in this installation have a rather decorative character. The presentation is inadequate for sale. The artworks are poorly presented and the art installation is overvalued/overrated and unsaleable. Donation on request. (The artist reserves the right not to chat to white people, and preferably women)". Despite the lack of sales, "110" increased the intrinsic value of his collection and body of paintings, as he gave viewers a lot of "work" (ideas to think about and discuss), which further increased the value of his oeuvre. His wrapped paintings provided a scenic backdrop for a play in three acts. Label paintings from the second act served as an autobiographical script. These labels illustrate Ryslavy's endeavour to expand the audience of his oeuvre, a point made clear by his extensive glossary (2017). The fact that he opened and closed the exhibition with paintings by strangers (first with works by Schröckenfuchs and finally with those of his father) illustrates the necessity of publicly visible exhibitions to create an intrinsic, intrinsic value of a work of art in the first place. By concealing and thus hiding his own work, Ryslavy effectively sheds light on the works of others.


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
Previous exhibitions


- "110" Three-part exhibition in Angelinna
(Rivoli Vitrines), Brussels (9 May - 31 July 2021)

- First part of this exhibition in the
Group exhibition Styrian Roots

- Contemporary Art Collection Museum
Admont Abbey (March - November 2022)

Ryslavy DSCF www

Who pushes whom?

Most of the paintings that Kurt Ryslavy is exhibiting openly here were presented packaged in the installation "110" (2021 Brussels and 2022 Admont). In this exhibition, he is also showing his paintings alongside works by other artists, although these are now from the Admont Museum's collection of contemporary art. This time, in the role of curator, Ryslavy specifically selected prints, paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs by 16 Austrian artists (born between 1931 and 1965) who taught or still teach at one of the two Viennese art academies. This brings another autobiographical chapter to light. The artist represented in the exhibition, Bruno Gironcoli, for example, taught the renowned artist Franz West, with whom Ryslavy was an early friend and whose works he collected. Oswald Oberhuber, who is also represented with works in the exhibition, invited Ryslavy to join his class as a "master student", even though he had not passed the entrance exam at the Vienna Academy. Ryslavy's plan to offer and use his own work in the exhibition rooms as "panelling (lambris)" seems puzzling at first, as this architectural decoration is primarily intended to protect walls from scratches or damage caused by chairs and tables bumping against the walls. Seen in this light, Ryslavy offers protection by placing his paintings flush with the lower part of the walls, as if he is making his work available to protect that of the other artists in the same exhibition. It is not an insignificant risk to use one's own oeuvre as wall panelling, as viewers could accidentally bump into the paintings or tear them off their hooks. In reference to Aretha Franklin's 1985 hit "Who's zoomin' who?", the question is "Who's bumpin' who?". Does this specific "hanging" of Ryslavy's painting below the selected artworks of the other artists increase the value of his art or does his novel exhibition strategy increase the value of the artworks of the others? There remains a slight doubt that Ryslavy wants to convey modesty with this form of presentation, comparable to a deep bow to show gratitude or even reverence. In view of his remarkable art career (Skulptur Projekte 1997 and over 100 solo exhibitions in 11 countries since 1980, etc.), most of which has taken place outside Austria, one senses his openness to meeting up again with fellow Austrian artists. On the other hand, this is perhaps also an act of relaxed stocktaking in view of the initial rejection by the Vienna Academy. Either way, this exhibition proclaims: "No offence... everything is perfect as it is", which enhances the value of each individual artwork, as this gathering of artworks revives a memorable late 20th century era of the notorious Viennese art scene.

Sue Spaid

With works by: Siegfried Anzinger, Erwin Bohatsch, Herbert Brandl, Gunter Damisch, Bruno Gironcoli, Franz Graf, Claudia Hirtl, Brigitte Kowanz, Oswald Oberhuber, Lois Renner, Constanze Ruhm, Eva Schlegel, Ruth Schnell, Ingeborg Strobl, Erwin Wurm and Kurt Ryslavy