At first I found Vienna and the Viennese a little intimidating. Too grand, too well-dressed, and possibly too expensive. The ATM dispensed 100 euro banknotes – it was the first time I’d seen them.
That Habsburg architecture is impressive of course, though isn’t it also overblown and pompous? Fine for a palace or opera house but would you really want to live under all those cherubs in the cornices?
So it was welcome light relief to discover Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who revamped a Viennese city incinerator and later the public toilet block in Kawakawa, New Zealand, making them surely the world’s most enjoyable garbage disposal units.
The Kunst Haus Wien is a small museum displaying Hundertwasser’s colourful paintings. You may already be familiar with them. They look great on posters, coffee cups and fridge magnets. Whether or not they are great art doesn’t matter to me.
‘Where are you coming from?’ asked the girl at the ticket office.
I watched as she entered ‘Australia’ in the category ‘Amerika – Nord’. This in a country which sells t-shirts reading ‘No kangaroos in Austria’.
Hundertwasser began as a painter, before his travels around the world led him towards environmental campaigning and political action. On display are his designs for new flags for New Zealand (a curled fern) and Australia (an inverted Uluru). There’s also his offering of a combined Israeli/Palestinian flag featuring the Star of David over a crescent moon. Sadly wishful thinking. They’d still fight over which should be on top.
Photography of the works is understandably politely forbidden (they have those posters to sell), though there’s no such ban on shooting the building itself.
Five minutes walk down the street I came to Hundertwasser’s meisterwerk in Vienna, a dull public housing complex transformed into a piece of art.
Across the road is the Hundertwasser Village, dedicated to selling ‘I Love Vienna’ baseball caps to visitors.
Oh, and about that Hundertwasser toilet block in New Zealand…Mevrouw T and I were happy to spend a few minutes and a penny there some years ago…