The Austrian Sculpture Park
History and nature
Emil Breisach, former managing director of the ORF Styrian provincial studios, sustained the notion that contemporary sculptures and viewers need to be granted a lieu of inter-action in public space and not only in museums. In 1981 he began to show works on the grounds of the studio which were the starting point for the idea of creating an adequate placement for Austrian sculpture in correspondence with international art.
The ideal site for a generously laid-out sculpture park was found in the 7 hectare covering park designed by Dieter Kienast, the well-known landscape architect from Switzerland in 2000 for the international garden show held in Unterpremstätten 7 km South of Graz.
The Austrian Sculpture Park Foundation was founded in cooperation with the PORR AG and the Province of Styria; its Board of Trustees consisting of Nikolaus Breisach, Hermann Eisenköck and Ralph Schilcher. It served as a basis for the concept of an international sculpture park co-initiated by Christa Steinle, head of the Neue Galerie Graz, and devised by Peter Weibel which in 2003 could be presented to the public.
To protect the park which to date contains 50 sculptures and to put it in a well founded scientific context as well as place it in a wide spread art-culture environment and at the same time make it accessible to an even broader public, Kurt Flecker, Styria's cultural consultant, in accordance with the Private Foundation facilitated the sculpture park's takeover by the Landesmuseum Joanneum under the manangement of Elisabeth Fiedler.
When sculpture and design get in touch they undergo a reaction and develop an inter-relation; in the course of time the story they tell is subject to constant changes. The garden as a creation by humans but at the same time picture of the ever growing nature corresponds with the sculptures which are exposed to weather, embedded in the landscape to which in turn they respond.
The terminology of contemporary sculpture ranges from abstract sculpture to common household objects, from anthropomorphic figurations to objects of utility. The dialogue between sculpture and its location is to render this terminology visible, i.e. make statements about art, society, its conflicts and dreams, and at the same time create a space for encounter.
Timm Ulrich’s “Tanzende Bäume” (dancing trees) and Mario Terzic’s “Arche aus lebenden Bäumen” (ark made of living trees) – the start of the project – are the most recent projects of park sculptures.
Oswald Oberhuber’s sculpture mounted on a wall relegates to the fact that since minimal art a sculpture cannot only stand on the floor, but can also be mounted on a wall and thus enters a dialogue with paintings. The dialogue inherent in art, as between painting and space, can also be enlarged by a dialogue between the forms of art and nature, as in the sculptures by Fritz Hartlauer and Jörg Schlick. Standing opposed to one another, they are dealing with the rules of form, algorithms and growth.
To this same category belong sculptures by Christa Sommerer and Michael Kienzer. Works of so-called old masters are placed on the landscape of stairs, facing the sky, representing the pantheon. The might of this place also heightens Heimo Zobernig’s tower at the entrance of the sculpture park or the “Bicycle” sculpture by Susana Solano. The same goes for a sculpture by Werner Reiterer, inflating and deflating in its dell, and the cushion by Hans Kupelwieser placed between hedges as well as Peter Weibel’s work, where the globe can be experienced as a suitcase. Machines of motion like cars (Erwin Wurm), ships (Michael Schuster), sails (Martin Walde) and aeroplanes (Nancy Rubins) talk to us about the fate of apparatuses, their failure and downtime, dreams of perfect society and technology and turn the landscape into a see or an airport. In correspondence with the afore mentioned are Heinz Gappmayr’s cues to “not yet visible” and “no longer visible” depending on the viewer’s position; in Yoko Ono’s cross into which a nail can be hammered and Jeppe Hein’s water sculpture the interaction between visitor and work of art is once more enhanced.
Thus the Sculpture Park is used as a platform to initiate the dialogue with contemporary sculpture and make its language more easily understandable.
Elisabeth Fiedler and Peter Weibel