Learn what artist Rudi Stanzel snuck into Belvedere, why you should always look up in Vienna and why Mozartkugeln are still a good souvenir.
For the In Love With Vienna series, artists, gallerists, curators and other personalities from the Austrian art and creative scene show us their view of the city, and let us know what they love about Vienna. For this edition, we visited artist Rudi Stanzel in his studio in Vienna’s Landstraße district.
How is living and working in Vienna as an artist?
There are many galleries in Vienna, and a lot of quality. If you compare it to similar-size cities, maybe Düsseldorf, or Darmstadt, there you’d have to walk around quite a bit to see similar quality as you have in one spot in Vienna. But that makes it difficult for artists as well, because the market is quite small. It’s also hard for galleries, not many really work internationally. It definitely helps if you have personal relationships.
What are you working on right now? What are you interested in at the moment?
The last three years I engaged in mathematics, read a lot about infinity and number theory. This takes most of my time. I needed a break from my work, and I think I needed change. It’s difficult to use mathematics in art. Most artworks that deal with mathematic are illustrations… and that’s not interesting to me. So I’m very careful when including mathematics. I don’t really know what’s going to be next, but I slowly start thinking about painting again. For now, I am collecting information, and I am also working on installations. This is a nice way to recollect myself for the other work. I just did an installation with chains in Hotel Altstadt, inspired by the handwriting of Sigmund Freud. Since he is very connected to the city, I thought guests could immediately start to get in touch with Vienna via Freud.
Your studio is in Vienna’s third district, Landstraße. Why did you choose this space?
It was a very famous gallery, Galerie Pakesch, in the 80s. A lot of other people were working here as well, in theatre and film. In 2013 I heard it was free and moved in. I’m very happy here. I like the area as well. It’s very close to Rochusmarkt, where I like to have coffee and do my shopping.
Some of your installations can be seen at Upper Belvedere as part of their contemporary intervention series. Did you always plan on including the history of the building?
I was working with mathematics, so I knew of [philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm] Leibnitz and the correspondence he had with Prince Eugene [who built the Belvedere]. Prince Eugene wasn’t only a patron of the arts, but of natural science and philosophy as well. He had scouts all over Europe to talk to scientists and philosophers. I missed this aspect of science in Upper Belvedere. I knew about the correspondence between the two. So I smuggled a bit of science into this artsy building.
How do you like to experience art in Vienna?
If I want to have an intense art experience, I go to one of the art weekends, or gallery area openings. There you can see a lot of art at once and meet a lot of people you don’t meet all year. It’s nice to talk to artists and other interesting people. But I need some quiet time afterwards.
And how do you relax?
One thing I like is going to the sauna. I always take a book with me, or something to write, but then I end up just relaxing. I usually go to Dianabad, which is quite close to where I live, or to Oberlaa. It’s quite big, but you can go outside, sunbathe and swim. I also liked Pratersauna, before it was turned into a club.
Do you have places in Vienna that inspire you?
I love my studio, I like to spend my time here, even if I don’t work. But if I’m in conflict with Vienna, if I’m not happy and things go wrong, I go to Upper Belvedere, to the garden. Then I look down and see Vienna, and this really softens my feelings towards the city.
You’ve lived here on-and-off for 40 years. Was that by choice or did it just happen?
At first it kind of happened. For the first three, four years, it was very hard to live in Vienna. It was a dark city, overaged, unfriendly people, nobody was talking, no bars, no places young people could go to. But it started to change when the subway came around. Now I feel the quality of life is very high here. You have parks nearby, good food, museums, theatres. But I also like to be abroad, I like to spend time in the US and in China. I don’t miss Vienna, but I feel comfortable here.
You miss nothing about Vienna when you’re abroad?
Not really. One thing I missed during my residencies in China was a cold, Austrian white wine.
And is there something you miss in Vienna?
I don’t like the dying of little restaurants and Beisln, all the renovations and shopping malls. The old cozy places start disappearing, and without them it’s like any other city. The other thing I miss is modern architecture. Compared to other cities, there’s not that much going on. Places like Chicago, or Kyoto, they have a very interesting mix of old and new. In Vienna, they’re a bit afraid of modern architecture.
What do you show visitors in Vienna?
I start at the Minoritenkirche. There are old tomb stones, and there is one bare-breasted bust with a child’s skull, and they are polished. Every other area is dusty and rough, but because people like to touch it, there are these three polished spots. That’s a nice start for Vienna, because Vienna is a bit morbid. I also like to show old wine cellars, like Esterházykeller. Some of them go down very far into the ground. Another place is Zwölf-Apostel-Keller. The area around Bäckerstraße and Sonnenfelsgasse is very interesting, because all of the house had cellars that went down three stories, and most of them were connected to each other. Most of them also had wells, there were a lot of bakeries. There’s one house in Schönlaterngasse, the Basiliskenhaus, house of the basilisk. There is an old story about a basilisk that lived in a well and was killed by one brave baker’s apprentice. And I like to take my guests to Schweizerhaus in the Prater. I would not go there by myself, it’s not too healthy to eat pork legs. But with tourists it’s OK to have a little beer and some pork.
Do you have a survival tip for people who come here and know nothing about Vienna?
Like in any city, walk around. To experience Vienna, the architecture, you have to walk around with your head up. On the first floor there are shops, like anywhere else. But when you look up, you see all this Art Nouveau architecture. Start with the first district, then branch out. Take any tram to the last stop and back, so you can get a feeling of the size and the changes in the cityscape.
What’s a good souvenir from Vienna?
What I love to bring with me is Mozart Balls (laughs). You can take a lot of them with you, and make a lot of people happy with just two or three.
Rudi Stanzel was born in Linz, Upper Austria, and studied under Peter Weibel at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Since the 80s, he has mainly focused on monochrome, painting-like objects. He states to be “interested in paint as a material, not as a color”. Stanzel’s works have recently been on shown, among other, in Galerie Ulysses, Vienna (2016); Vienna for Art’s Sake, Winter Palace, Vienna (2015); The Brancusi Effect, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2014); and Painting: Process and Expansion, mumok, Vienna (2010). He lives and works in Vienna.
Check out Rudi Stanzel’s installation, „Link-Chain-Curtain“ & „A Pile of Primes“, at Belvedere until May 15, 2016.
1. ©Roland Krauss
2. Studio – ©Rudi STanzel
3. Installation at Hotel Altstadt – ©Rudi Stanzel
4. Rudi Stanzel: Link-Chain-Curtain – ©Belvedere
5. & 6. Rudi Stanzel: A Pile 0f Primes – ©Belvedere
7. View from Upper Belvedere – ©WienTourismus/MAXUM
8. Minoriten church at night – ©Hubertl / Wikimedia Commons /
9. Art Nouveau details on Wienzeile – ©WienTourismus/Hedwig Zdrazil
10. ©WienTourismus/Hertha Hurnaus