Thursday, 28 December 2017

Vienna is the world’s largest wind tunnel. In the sixteenth century it was always about to be lost to the Turks, so there was a large green belt kept around the outside of the city walls. The suburbs grew up on the other side of it, always keeping a kilometre or so free just in case the Ottomans came back. So while Haussmann was bulldozing Paris, building palaces on the heads of the poor, the Austrians already had an enormous, empty lot of prime real estate that they just divided up and built into the ringstrasse. It has many straight lines and boulevards, is extremely convenient and well serviced by trams, and is also terribly, deathly cold on a windy day.

The Secessionist building was open. The golden laurels were covered up, but it looked appropriate; as if they were afraid the building would get cold, so they built it a turtleneck of scaffolds. I like that it is still a contemporary exhibition space. There was an Olga Chernycheva exhibit in the upper and lower galleries. In the downstairs room it was a video of a tour of Checkhov’s house, some complex link between video art as portraiture and Checkhov’s observational literature. Some of the works were beautiful. One was a film of snow covered train platforms, with the people on them framed as if in a white walled gallery. Another was a video of the artist’s parents shaping pastry on a baking tin, opening a letter from Putin to army veterans.

In the morning we went to the Albertina. There was a Raphael exhibition on, which was packed full. Most of it was preparatory sketches. The modern art collection was a private bequest. I liked that. I like anyone who buys this daft Miro:

I assume that strange amoeba is a person, or something. But what masterly use of teal.

Also this Feininger. He looks as if he is about to fall off. I like Germanic art best when it is childlike.

Our apartment was split level, with a church across the street that tolled wildly at 8:00am. We had a kitchen, and my father made vegetable soup.

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