Politics and Paintings Stir Vienna


Do you know G4S, a British firm dealing with security worldwide, founded in 1901? I did not until Christian Diaz, usher at the Burgtheater, seized hold of the microphone during a short break at the theater’s 125-year anniversary ceremony.

Vordernberg, site for G4S immigration center.

He said all ushers do not serve the Burgtheater, because their employer is G4S, a notorious security firm who also is involved in running an Austrian immigration removal center. G4S announced in September that it had won a contract to run the centre, located in the city of Vordernberg, for the Austrian Government. The pact is worth 68 million euros, the firm said in a release.

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Diaz complained that, as a working man for a cultural institution, he did not want to be on the payroll of a firm who is involved in many suspicious fields.

Dr. Georg Springer, managing director of the Bundestheater Holding (a holding of State Opera, Burgtheater and Volksoper) fullfilled this wish: he fired Christian Diaz.

Some groups of people sharing interests have shown their solidarity with Christian Diazwithout any result until now.

Burgtheater director Matthias Hartmann has met with the usher in the meantime: both agreed “that the link Burgtheater – G4S is worthy to be criticized,” a newspaper reported.

From Freud to Klimt to Nolde

Two fabulous exhibitions are worth a Christmas trip to Vienna:

Freud’s “Man with a Feather”

Lucian Freud with 40 paintings at the KHM – Kunsthistorisches Museum starting with the oil on canvas “Man with a Feather,” (1943) and ending with his oil on canvas “Portrait of the Hound” (2010/2011) which was left unfinished on the artist’s easel when he died on July 21, 2011.

You can also admire his wonderful “After Chardin” of 1999. Freud was asked by the National Gallery in London to produce a new work in response to a painting from their collection. He had no hesitation in choosing Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin’s “The Young Schoolmistress” (1735-1736).

Dr. Sabine Haag, director general, writes in the very informative catalog:

Over the years, the artist himself declined several invitations to exhibit his work in Vienna, a city in which his family had lived until their emigration and deportation at the hands of the Nazis in 1938.

This leads to the discussion of restitution of Gustav Klimt‘s Beethoven frieze to the family of the former owner — a discussion stimulated by the seizure of more than 1,300 artworks including watercolors in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of an art dealer during the Nazi period.

Emil Nolde was banned from painting during the Nazi era, so he had to work with aqua color to avoid any smell authorities might detect.

Now the Belvedere Museum (the castle of Prinz Eugen) shows about 190 “unpainted” works of Emil Hansen, born in the little village of Nolde in 1867. After his marriage in 1902 he changed his name to Nolde and worked in Switzerland.