Christoph Büchel invited the Viennese Swinger Club 'Element6' into Vienna's historic Secession art exhibition hall.
Even in a (self-understood) cultured country like Austria, a visual art project hardly ever makes it to the front page of the yellow press.
Swiss artist Christoph Büchel achieved this goal (?) by inviting an existing Viennese swinger club into the basement hall of the Secession art association. The Secession also permanently hosts the world renowned 'Beethoven Fries' by Gustav Klimt. So, quite a number of Klimt-tourists will be irritated by this show too. During museum opening hours every visitor can see the (moved original) interior of the swinger club. After 6.00 p.m. the museum closes and the swinger club starts his regular business.
Given the fact that the Vienna city hall officially hosts a breathtaking Aids-charity-extravaganza, the 'Life Ball', Vienna is not at all a prude city. However, the yellow press and the right-wing populists heavily complained about this 'sex-inside-the-museum-for-taxpayer's-money - scandal'. (By the way, an interesting point of view of an Austrian party who's former leader came to death by a car accident caused by speeding after leaving a gay club drunken...)
The Secession's management was so careful not to spend any (Austrian) taxpayer's money for this project.
But, what about the art?
Christoph Büchel is a strange artist in the tradition of the neo-minimalists. He puts every day things into an art context. At the last Frieze art fair in London, he put his sweaty socks on the floor of his gallery's booth and thus made it a work of art. The price tag was GBP 20,000 - but I forgot if it was sold or not...
Mr. Büchel does not go to this own openings. He does not give interviews. He does not allow press kits to be given away from his shows. That is interesting: He tries to avoid the star cult about the artist. So, everybody has to focus on the work only.
There are many questions, this piece may want to ask:
- What are the borders of artistic practice?
- What happens if the artist rises a conventional swinger club up to something shiny as fine art?
- What happens if a taboo issue, like a swinger club, gets into full public focus by art?
- Which is the relationship between sexuality and art?
- The artist unveils yellow press' naive education about art - or at least what they think about their reader's art education.
I think it may have been some of these questions, that made Mr. Büchel decide to do this performance.
In the beginning I did not like this piece - I thought it was simply provocation. Now I have to say, it made me think quite a lot.
In general, I think good art has to move people, has to make them think or feel - this is exactly what this piece does.
Christoph Büchel: 'Bar Club Element6' at Secession, Vienna/Austria
Through 18 April 2010