For the first time in 2018, a part of Heidi Horten’s private art collection was presented to the wider public in Vienna at the Leopold Museum of Modern Art in an exhibition entitled WOW! And indeed, the exhibition aroused a surprised “wow!” among many – it contained up to 170 masterpieces by 75 artists! Based on the great response, Heidi Horten – the richest Austrian woman at that time – decided to found her own museum, thus making her collection accessible and preserved for future generations. So far, I have seen all three exhibitions that have been held here since the opening, and I can say that each one was a pleasant surprise for me, each one was wow!
Heidi Horten was a billionaire, philanthropist and art collector. She inherited a huge fortune from her first husband, the German businessman “King of Department Stores” Helmut Horten. After his death in 1987, the rich widow began to expand their art collection with great zeal.
The building of the new museum
In 2019, Heidi Horten acquired the inconspicuous building of the former archduke’s office in the Hanuschhof area near the famous Albertina. During its century-long existence, this building had been used for various purposes. The founder of the new museum entrusted the Viennese firm The next ENTERprise Architects with the task of adapting the existing architecture to the requirements of a modern exhibition house. The adaptation of the old building took twenty months.
While the facade remained almost intact, the entire interior was demolished. Two floors with illuminated ceilings now float in the free space. The large bright hall is flanked by smaller rooms on the sides that provide a more intimate interior. All three exhibition levels represent an area of 1,500 m² and are connected by futuristic staircases.
Also interesting is the Tea Room where the visitor can sit and look at some publications or objects in round display cases which change according to the current exhibition.
There is a small garden in front of the museum which displays interesting exhibits as well, mainly various oversized sculptures brought here from some of Heidi Horten’s residences. Such as this bronze apple, weighing 400 kg (Claude Lalanne, 2006).
Opening exhibition OPEN
The Heidi Horten Collection Museum was opened in Vienna in June 2022 with the OPEN exhibition, with a mainly focus on the architecture of the building. Even the signposts on the ground floor showed not only the direction of the tour, but the inscription on the floor right after entering the museum warned the visitor not to forget to look upwards as well.
The opening exhibition presented 50 works from the collection, which ranks among the most important private art collections in Europe. I can mention at least the gigantic Vibrasaurus by Austrian artist Constantin Luser, which spanned up to two exhibition floors. As is usual in modern art, there were also slightly “crazy” exhibits, such as the oversized purple sow by German sculptor Lena Henke.
Heidi Horten died on June 12, just a few days after the opening of her dream museum. However, her legacy lives on.
The LOOK exhibition
The opening exhibition was followed by the first thematic exhibition LOOK, in which fashion from the 19th century and the representation of femininity played a major role. The exhibition also functioned as a tribute to the founder of this new Viennese museum.
The key themes were art and fashion and their inspiring interplay, the look of a woman, style and the view of a woman. The exhibited paintings of world masters from the 19th century to the present day (Amerling, Degas, Klimt, Miró, Matisse, Picasso, Rodin, Warhol and others) depicted modern avant-garde women, charming divas and interesting portraits, but also various fetishistic accessories.
The exhibition was complemented by 22 gowns made exclusively for Heidi Horten by famous fashion designers Christian Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Patou and Jean-Louis Scherrer, as well as original drawings with fabric samples, orders, personal notes on dress designs and other correspondence from Heidi Horten with Parisian fashion studios. Thus, the LOOK exhibition became not a fashion show, but an exhibition where art and fashion entered into a new relationship, an internal dialogue.
At the beginning of May 2023, another exhibition called RENDEZ-VOUS was opened, and it is mainly a meeting with artists whose life destinies took them to France.
On display are pictures of places and cities that represented important stops in their artistic development; of course, especially Paris – already then the capital of culture with its liberal climate and its famous Montmartre district. After all, even Marc Chagall said that he found the light of his freedom in Paris. The exhibition contains several Chagall paintings, the painting “Lovers” became the advertising picture of this exhibition.
As 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, a large part of the exhibition is dedicated to him. However, here you can admire not only his paintings and drawings but also various ceramic objects.
The images of the French Riviera evoke a genuine atmosphere at the beginning of summer. Thanks to their residences in Paris and Antibes, Heidi Horten also fell in love with France. And so some exhibits show the mondaine life of this billionaire – yachts, modernist Villa Dubeau in Antibes, furniture from this villa, including the legendary bamboo bar…
And the Tea Room displays beautiful decorative items from Cartier and Lalique, as well as lesser-known designers and manufacturers.
Heidi Horten’s personality is present in the Salon as well, where old and new are mixed, or antique and avant-garde. Everything she liked can be found here – paintings, mirrors, clocks, glass jars and Mediterranean-themed objects (shells, a fish-shaped lamp, metal lobster figurines). Here, too, it can be seen that money played no role, she simply bought everything that made her happy. As she herself said: “Ich wohne gerne…” (I like to dwell).
The RENDEZ-VOUS exhibition will last until October 29, 2023. It doesn’t matter if you miss it. After its end, there will certainly be another just as interesting exhibition that will surprise you.
Detailed information – opening hours, entrance fees, accompanying program – can be found on the website: www.hortencollection.com
The museum is closed on Tuesday!
Address: Hanuschgasse 3, 1010 Vienna
Extra tip: on Thursdays, the museum is open until 9:00 p.m., while entry is free after 6:00 p.m.!
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri