November 2004

First Graz Cultural Scene... And Much, Much More.

It is astonishing to discover that you can be transported to the heart of the Unesco World Heritage Site of Graz, Cultural Capital of Europe 2003, in less than two hours from Stansted.

Graz is the capital of the province of Styria, south of the Alps in the south-east of Austria. And there throbs enough arty edification, gastronomy and unexpectedly smashing, high-quality wines you could ever wish to savour in one weekend.

Once again your arty correspondent was fortunate to arrive to an Indian summer on his visit last month. A Mediterranean feel was in the air, so I was in short-sleeved shits with sun glasses and Ambre Solaire at the ready.

I was in town to visit the Steirscher herbst - The Festival of New Art - which was founded in 1968 and whose spirit is to forge links between artists, progress and freedom and into the wide unknown. This year's programme was timely themed on "theres always a crisis".

I believe that depending on how the world and artists handle it, a crisis can be a golden opportunity which can lead to a greater understanding of the problem. So I also took this occasion to explore the city of Graz in its full historical, modern day and architectural wealth. Why not!

Included in the festival of contemporary art is, a children's museum, theatre, talks and the influence of a highly controversial British politician. Yes, even our former Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher gets a look in with her statement "There must be an alternative". A statement made regarding the economic injustices of the 1980s. Its quite out of character for Maggie. But still, the utterance is the catalyst for a talk, exhibition and symposium. Whatever next!

The new Kunsthaus (Art Exhibition Centre) was designed by the acclaimed British architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier and has the moniker "Friendly Alien". The building was one of the main runners in this years Riba Stirling Prize. The architectural award identifies design and flamboyant innovation, which, I can testify, the Kunsthaus has with abundance.

Entering the cast-iron building, the earliest in Austria, you have to pass through the Eisernes Haus (Iron House). There's a statue of Polyhmnia (singers) which was found by the builders in the transformation. And be sure to take the travelator up into hub of the newfangled building. The avant-garde area, with its changeable, electronic, outer skin is quite magnificent at night.

On the sunny day I visited, the outer skin glistened. This spawns a distorted motif reflection, an interplay between the traditional buildings opposite on the acrylic glass. Very unorthodox, but very arty and more to the point - it's stimulating, daring architecture that works.

Moving Parts-Forms of the Kinectic (in collaboration with the museum Tinguely, Basel) is on until January 16, 2005 at the Kunsthaus. What Elvis did for the pelvis, Tinguely did for Kinectic art! And I highly recommend it.

Also on in the same building, Camera Austrias thought-provoking photograph exhibition, Staying or Leaving. And take time to See the excellent accompanying catalogue.

On until November 28 2004.

There were too many "must see" shows, to do them justice, but here are my highlights. First stop on this fascinating arts journey without any frontiers, which the blurb informed me "will be setting up camp in this field of tension 2004", was the opening of the exhibition of "nothingness".

My mind was already boggling at all this suspense and nonexistance. But at the Gallery Lendl, we are faced with international artists such as, Martin Creed - Turner Prize 2001 winner, with his work no.141 (from none take one add one make none), framed text on paper. And the key exhibit which was in at the birth of conceptual art, is Art & Language, a map of a 36-mile surface area of the Pacific Ocean. The British curator Neil Robert Wenman, made the quirky remark in his opening address, "We can make a lot out of nothing". My conclusion is that its nothingness is complex to unravel, but well worth the trouble trying.

See comprehensive steirischer herbst programme for exhibitions, dates, venues and contact numbers.

Herberstein Castle, which is mysteriously hidden away high above the Feistritz gorge has many facets and is a unique gem. The 21st generation of the Herberstein family still live in the castle today. The gardens have been important since the 16th century, with many histotrical roses. And with the family in mind, there are special kids programmes. The 90-acre zoo has more than 130 species from all over the world.

Within the castle grounds there is the Gironcoli Museum with floor space of 2000 square meters, a tight budget of only three million euros, and was built in just over a year. This must be some sort of construction (start-to-finish) record of a modern museum! Bruno Gironcoli is considered to be one of the most important Austrian contemporary artists and here is the largest collective show of his work. The museum is a former barn dating back to 1594. Although mostly constructed with modern materials, the wooden beams are all original and have only been sandblasted.

As Waltraud Klasnic, Governor of Styria stated, "There is however no reason to rest on ones laurels without looking ahead". And that is just what Graz has done. It was a superb cultural weekend, with something for all culture vultures. Go on take the plunge this winter its definitely first Graz Arts!

Need To Know

Graz Tourist Information Herrengasse 16 A-8010 Graz Tel: 00 43 316 8075-0

Kunsthaus Graz Lendkai 1 A-8020 Graz Tel:00 43 316 8017

Gironcoli Museum (at the Animal and Nature Park at Herberstein Castle) Buchberg 2 A-8222 St.Johann bei Herberstein Tel: 00 43 317 8825-0

Need To Eat

Santa Clara 8010 Graz, Burgergasse 6 Tel:00 43 316 811822

Krebsen Keller 8010 Graz, Sackstrasse 12 Tel:00 43 316 829377

Need To Stay

Hotel Europa Graz Bahnhofgurtel 89 A-8020 Graz

Hotel, Winery and Restaurant A-8353 Kapfenstein 1-Steiermark Tel:0043 315 7 300 30-0

Wine Tasting (A must if you love good wine)

Winkler-Hermaden Weingut Winkler-Hermaden A-8353 Kapfenstein 105 Tel:0043 3157-2322


Herberstein Castle And Nature Park Buchberg 2,8222 St. Johann bei Herberstein Tel:0043 3176-88250

Need To Get There
Ryanair flies from Stansted to Graz. See

Pop Art Auction Goes With A Bang

Hot Gossip UK's very own effervescent Joan .. kindly donated her wildly read Champagne Exercises book to a UNICEF charity auction in T. M. Lewin shirt makers shop in Jermyn Street, London W1 last month. After (naturally) a champagne reception, works by major artists including, Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Warhol were all sold. Even Neil and Christina Hamilton brought three works, one was the 1991 book "Hockney's Alphabet" by David Hockney and Stephen Spender.

Joan's book was the last exhibit and went for a fizzing £28. The book was purchased by the MD of T.M Lewin, Mr Geoff Quinn. The burble around the establishment, is that after a hard day's work, the staff will now be able to unwind by drinking champagne and doing the splits simultaneously, and truly letting there hair down in one of London's swanky streets.

Well done Joan!

Joan’s book, find out more details about book signings by going into website.

Auction organised by artcatz, they donated the buyers' premium on the hammer price to UNICEF. For more details about similar events contact

T.M Lewin at,106 Jermyn Street London SW1.Tel:020 7930 1855



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