André Ostier, Patricia Lopez-Willshaw, Winter Ball, Hotel Coulanges, Paris, 30 December 1958

Celebrate the moment

Fittingly for the upcoming holidays, the MAK Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna is showing the exhibition "The Fest: Between Representation and Revolt", a journey through time from aristocratic balls to Berlin's Berghain.
by Judith Jenner | 12/14/2022

Vienna has always known how to celebrate. In the days of the monarchy, aristocratic society gathered at masked balls and weddings. Their excesses are legendary. But even today, the city is known for its nightlife. With its exhibition "The Fest", the MAK – Museum of Applied Arts moves from its own history to a more comprehensive view of celebration. It is about glitter and pomp and, to a certain extent, also about the transience of the moment. MAK director Lilli Hollein sees the theme as an opportunity to bring together historical and contemporary art and to show the wealth of extraordinary exhibits in her house. "My intention was above all to choose a theme that would make the range of our collection recognisable, all the furniture, glass or carpets in their outstanding artistic quality," says the former co-founder and director of the Vienna Design Week. At the same time, she wants to open up her house to the city. After all, celebrating always means inviting people and allowing unusual encounters. She has enlisted eccentric support for this: A performance with Friedrich Liechtenstein as the "doorman who lets everyone in" is planned for the opening.

Kendell Geers, Kocktail, 2004 Ausführung: ColleVilca, Italien MAK, GL 3834-1
Ex-Glass for the Wiener Werkstätte, 1919 Design: Mathilde Flögl Execution: Johann Oertel & Co., Haida/Nový Bor Glass, painted MAK, GL-3429

Special room

Arriving at the exhibition is already an experience. In a movable mirror wall, Nicole Six and Paul Petritsch "reflect" festive moods, which in turn are shown in historical mirrors. With Morse code, a room-sized Venetian Murano chandelier by Cerith Wyn Evans transmits a lecture on early star photography by Siegfried Marx. This "furniture of the air", as glass artist Peter Rath once called chandeliers, immediately creates a special atmosphere in the room. Guest curator Brigitte Felderer and her curatorial assistant Olga Wukounig also took an artistic approach to the exhibition design. Peter Sandbichler structures the 1,480 square metre exhibition hall with large bicycle boxes as walls and benches. The lightness of the environmentally conscious material allows for low-hanging ceiling sculptures as well as towering cubatures. They spatially enclose individual objects – from festive gowns to jewellery to photographs – and in this way create different moods.

Cerith Wyn Evans, Astrophotography-Stages of photographic development by Siegfried Marx (1987), 2007 Installation with glass clusters, light bulbs, computer with Morse device Texts on astrophotography: R. Budell and W. J. Roberton TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection
Petra Bacher, "L'enfant terrible", Homage to JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, 2013-2015 Karton, Marzipan, Zucker

Interacting with the past

The recycled material contrasts with noble exhibits such as the 30-metre-long Milanese centrepiece, which was purchased for the coronation of Emperor Ferdinand as King of LombardoVenetia in 1838. The table decoration is certainly one of the most ornate exhibits in the MAK collection. The Vienna-based artist Thomas Hörl designed precisely adapted costumes, ruffs and hairstyles for some of the porcelain figurines. In this way, the exhibition allows historical objects to interact with modern art. The installation by the artist Anna Vasof shows that celebrations can also be political. She has digitally processed images from the May Day celebrations of the workers' movement in short looped videos so that they almost appear alive. "Whereas at the great balls of the aristocracy, class and birth counted and a large part of the population had no access to them, today you no longer have to be aristocratic to join in the celebrations. At the door of hip clubs, other criteria are important, for example beauty and wealth," Brigitte Felderer sums up the social dimension of a changing festive culture. Of course, there will also be celebrations at "The Fest". For 13 April 2023, Lilli Hollein invites to an artists' festival. Visitors will experience artistic approaches to festival design. With "The Fest", the MAK spans a wide arc from the Baroque to the present, from stately balls to the May Day March to Berlin's Berghain. By involving all of the museum's collection areas in the exhibition, the MAK – Museum of Applied Arts is also celebrating itself a little with the exhibition.

The Fest
Between representation and turmoil

Wednesday, 14 December 2022 to Sunday, 7 May 2023
MAK – Museum of Applied Arts

Opening hours:

Tuesday 10 am to 9 pm
Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm
Closed on Mondays

Opening hours public holidays 2022:

24 December 10 am to 3 pm
25 and 26 December 10 am to 6 pm
27 December 10 am to 9 pm
28 to 30 December 2022, 10 am to 6 pm
31 December 2022, 10 am to 3 pm
1 January 2023, 10 am to 6 pm