Museumed Out

We’d worn nice clothes to see the choir because our other ones were dirty. We could have gone to museums in them, but Ray’s camera battery failed during the exact moment the boys were onstage, and we went back to the hotel to change, and to get my camera which I coerced back into working until the next time E18 happens.

We spent Sunday in two museums (the ones which were closed Monday): MUMOK and the Leopold. They are both located in a new complex called MuseumQuartier which has several museums and spaces to hang out — it’s pretty nice. At MUMOK, they featured Yves Klein, a French artist who became famous for making paintings which were entirely blue, an exceptionally pretty shade which he copyrighted as International Klein Blue. In his later years, he used gold and pink as well, and even later, painted with fire, which was pretty cool. Other exhibits at the museum included various conceptual pieces from the permanent collection, and an exhibit highlighting somewhat revolutionary young Austrian performance artists channeling Karen Finley and Bob Flanagan for Austrians over 16.

The Leopold museum had large collections of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, two important Austrian artists of the early 20th century. Klimt has the advantage over the artists featured in MUMOK that you don’t need to read his manifestos to like his images. I really liked Schiele: he did everything between age 16 and 28, when he died of influenza in the epidemic of 1918.

We stopped at a pretty dumb museum called Haus der Musik which is the Vienna equivalent of the Experience Music Project in Seattle. One floor was called Sonosphere, which had several exhibits of the properties of sound; another featured Austrian composers; and another was designed by MIT Media Lab with a bunch of “fun” music-making devices. The only problem was that almost none of the “fun” music making devices worked very well. Either they were based on old slow computers, or the sensors were just worn out from overuse, or the psychoacousticians had slept through their morning UI classes. Or a combination of the three. I didn’t have very high expectations, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

Our restaurant info was pretty rudimentary, and we ended up Sunday night at a small chain serving the Viennese equivalent of pho — beef boiled in broth. But instead of bean sprouts, there were root vegetables and applesauce mixed with horseradish. It was crowded, and unobjectionable but expensive, like all tourist restaurants.

After dinner we saw a small exhibit featuring some Beijing artists, and just outside was the coolest thing we’ve seen in this city. In Craiova, where the new fountains had been installed, our friends were disdaining fountains as a concept. But there was this fountain which was dropping words from an overhead bar like a dot matrix printer — I think even our Romanian friends would approve.

Today we started at the Globe museum, which had a large collection of globes. Old globes, showing California as an island as late as 1700. Celestial globes, showing the stars. Inflatable globes. Big globes (over a meter in diameter). It was pretty fun. It was located in a building of the Austrian National Library, which also had a small Esperanto museum, showing the history of the language; they have a department which specializes in “planned languages”.

After snacking on a cheese sausage from a stand in Albertinaplatz (the cheese is in the sausage) we returned to Museumquartier to the Kunsthalle, which had an exhibit of Korean artists, and an architecture museum, which showed Austrian architectural history from 1800 to the present.

We decided not to go to any more museums and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the center of the city, heading towards the gray green greasy Danube canal to see some scenery more like “Before Sunrise”, seeing lots of interesting architecture on the way. We ended up at Kronprinz Rudolf, a perfectly nice hotel restaurant, which specialized in “roulades” (rolled meat like chicken cordon bleu) — I had deer rolled with dried fruit, and pork rolled with blue cheese and spinach. And a sachertorte for dessert because you have to.

Now it’s time to ask our hotel to wake us up at 4:30 so we can make the 6:30 train to Venice leaving from a station about 15 minutes away. It’s nice that there’s a streetcar named 18 directly in front of the hotel which goes directly to that station, so we don’t have to take a taxi. And it starts at 5 in the morning.