Vienna Art Week 2013 “Projecting Worlds.” An interview with curator Robert Punkenhofer

Today – November 18 – Vienna Art Week opens its ninth edition. I met the curator of the event, Robert Punkenhofer, for a brief interview.

VIENNA ART WEEK Logo Design: Perndl+Co

VIENNA ART WEEK. Logo Design: Perndl+Co

Vincenzo Estremo: The title of Vienna Art Week’s ninth edition, “Projecting Worlds,” is close to the title of Daniel Birnbaum’s 2009 Venice Biennale, “Making Worlds,” but something in the art world has changed since 2009. Is it not the time for action, now?

Robert Punkenhofer: When we defined this year´s title for Vienna Art Week, we were very much aware of Birnbaum´s Fare Mondi Biennale (which I enjoyed very much visiting!). His curatorial focus was strongly directed towards the visionary, the utopian aspect of art.
In our case, Projecting Worlds highlights a broader approach in regard to artistic practice and includes the spectator. Our turn is the notion of art as a tool to build identities, to paraphrase Michel Houellebecq, “you can work in isolation for years, and in fact this is the only way to work, but then comes the moment when you have to show your work to the world, not for getting the judgement of the public towards your work but to make sure that your artistic work really exists and indeed to make sure of your own existence as individual. The artist projects his worlds, intimate, emotional, social, political, personal, and the viewer, when entering an artist studio or an exhibition, sees him/herself in that very work, projects his/her own meaning. This dialogue between different world projections is our focus this year. That is also why one of our core program line is the open studio tours including more than 100 artists, with lectures, special guides and panel discussions concerning the studio as a very special if not mythical place of projecting worlds.

V.E. As Artistic Director of Vienna Art Week, what is your own idea of investment at this moment?

R.P. I am not sure if I understand your question correctly. Do you mean investment in art? Collecting? Well, with Vienna Art Week we focus on the content and artistic value of art and not on the financial value. We want to highlight the exhibitions, artists, collections, galleries, off spaces and academies that make Vienna such a rich and diverse art hub, reaching from historic collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum to the cutting edge conceptual art at TB21. But one advise, do not invest and collect in art with your ears but with your eyes and never buy a work of art just for monetary reasons, but for aesthetic emotional reaction! And don´t be frightened by inflated prices at some auctions or galleries, there is so much great and affordable art around you and nearby. Keep looking, exploring, learning, come to Vienna Art Week to get all the insights!

VIENNA ART WEEK 2013, 18. – 24. November 2013 Robert Punkenhofer,Künstlerischer Leiter, VIENNA ART WEEK und Martin Böhm, Geschäftsführer, Dorotheum © Klaus Pichler

VIENNA ART WEEK 2013, 18. – 24. November 2013. Robert Punkenhofer, Künstlerischer Leiter, VIENNA ART WEEK und Martin Böhm, Geschäftsführer, Dorotheum. © Klaus Pichler

V.E. In your opinion, what will the role of the curator in events like art weeks and fairs be? These events are going to become new biennales?

R.P. Indeed, there seems to be a blurring of boundaries and it is true that big art fairs and biennales seem to be ever more alike. But still, the art fairs’ main purpose is to SELL art, Biennales should focus on artistic content, challenging themes and give opportunities for the production of great new work of art. In my view, the inflation of both art fairs and biennales resulted in an ever more exchangeable focus on artists and curators that seems to ship the same work all over. 10 years ago I still visited perhaps 4 to 6 fairs a year, now I focus on just one, Basel. The same goes with Biennales. The unique approach of Vienna Art Week is not to invite one star curator and a dozen of star artists, but to really work with more than 70 program partners that develop an eclectic program that spans an arch from medieval, baroque, etc. to the newest tendencies in art. The role of the curators should stay the same, have a great artistic vision, watch the quality of art being shown, keep budgets and timelines, involve a diverse public and try to reinvent as much as possible each edition.

V.E. Vienna Art Week is growing. What projects do you see in the future for Vienna Art Week? Towards what direction would you like to orient the organization?

R.P. Yes, we are growing, from 20 program partners 9 years ago to more than 70 this year, from 30 events in one week to more than 200, from 500 visitors to 35 000, from hardly any media response to great coverage, nationally and internationally. I am convinced that we have laid the base for a must-see art festival on an international level. We are nearly 100 percent privately financed, some public support would help to grow further, especially as far as the production of new work and international public relations is concerned.

Vienna Art Week, “Projecting Worlds,” November 18-24, 2013.

VIENNA ART WEEK 2013, 18. – 24. November 2013 Design: Perndl+Co Foto: Klaus Fritsch

VIENNA ART WEEK 2013, 18. – 24. November 2013. Design: Perndl+Co. Foto: Klaus Fritsch

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by Vincenzo Estremo
in Focus on Europe

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory