Prized Artist-Designed Postcards and Wares from the Vienna Workshop Featured in Frist Center Exhibition
Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection with additional loans from The Wolfsonian–Florida International University
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 14, 2015)—Artist-designed postcards, textiles, decorative arts and printed materials from the acclaimed Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), an association of artists and artisans founded by members of the broader Vienna Secession movement, will be on display in the Frist Center’s Upper-Level Galleries from June 26 to October 5, 2015.
From 1903 to 1932 the Wiener Werkstätte produced high-quality household wares, from furniture and glassware to postcards and garments, with the goal of designing every aspect of daily life. Postcards made by designers such as Josef Hoffmann, Oskar Kokoschka, Dagobert Peche and Egon Schiele were important in the overall program of the Wiener Werkstätte. The renowned collector Leonard A. Lauder has a nearly complete set of more than 900 cards, more than 300 of which were selected for this exhibition.
The variety of the cards’ thematic subject matter reflects the social fabric of turn-of-the-century Vienna—its cabarets, cafés, historic sites, fashions, and holiday celebrations—delivering memorable images that range in tone from humorous and whimsical to brooding. “Underscoring the value of well-designed objects in all aspects of everyday life, this exhibition provides a refreshing look at a time when communication with family and friends was largely handwritten,” says Frist Center Curator Katie Delmez. “Visitors to the Frist Center will also have a unique opportunity to see these small treasures in the appropriate setting of our historic building, which served as Nashville’s former main post office from 1934 to 1986.”
This selection of postcards is contextualized by more than 70 Wiener Werkstätte works from The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, a museum of art and design in Miami Beach, including painted glassware, ceramics, leather wallets, and intricately designed textiles. Together, they bring to life the rich world of Vienna in the early 20th century.
Drawing inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement in England, architect Josef Hoffmann and artist Koloman Moser cofounded the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903 with the aim of creating a “total work of art” (or, in German, Gesamtkunstwerk) and elevating the status of the decorative arts. This goal was shared by members of the Vienna Secession, a group begun in 1897 by Gustav Klimt and other artists, including Hoffmann and Moser. Originally conceived as a metal workshop, the Wiener Werkstätte soon added departments for bookbinding, furniture, lacquerwork and leatherwork. In 1907, it began publishing a numbered series of postcards, a line that would eventually include nearly a thousand designs. “The cards were an affordable way to share good design with a wide audience and the program was among the workshop ’s most successful sectors,” says Ms. Delmez. “They have been in great demand as collector’s items since their creation.”
Between 1909 and 1929, the Wiener Werkstätte established sales branches in Berlin, Karlsbad, Lucerne, Marienbad, New York, Velden and Zurich. The disruption of the First World War and the subsequent breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire contributed to the decline in the workshop's economic viability. In 1932, after severe financial losses, it was dissolved and the complete inventory sold at auction.
Chairman Emeritus of the Estée Lauder Companies Leonard Lauder took a special interest in collecting postcards at an early age. “He acquired his first postcard at the age of eight,” says Ms. Delmez. “He acquired nearly two hundred thousand cards, many of which are now in museum collections. He has stated that the Wiener Werkstätte cards in particular hold a special place in his heart, and he considers them the gold standard in postcard production.” Mr. Lauder has promised a nearly complete set of the Wiener Werkstätte postcards to the Neue Galerie in New York, a museum devoted to modern Austrian and German art, which was founded by his brother, Ronald S. Lauder.
The black and white geometric exhibition design was influenced by Josef Hoffmann’s designs at the first Wiener Werkstätte exhibition held in the fall of 1904 at the Hohenzollern-Kunsgewerbehaus in Berlin. The display cases were inspired by a 1917 writing desk designed by Dagobert Peche. Both are the creative work of The Wolfsonian-FIU.
This exhibition was organized by the Neue Galerie New York, with additional loans from The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach.
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Friday, June 26
Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free
First come, first seated
Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte Presented by Janis Staggs, associate director for curatorial and publications, Neue Galerie New York
The Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) produced a numbered series of postcards from 1907 until the end of World War I. These miniature works of art were both a way to advertise the many products the firm created as well as an inexpensive vehicle for sharing good design with a broad audience. Nearly one thousand unique postcard designs were issued by more than fifty artists. This talk will provide an overview of the firm’s postcards and cover the various subjects depicted, including cabarets and coffeehouses, fashion and holidays, children’s themes and humor, and even contemporary events and places in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Information on accessibility may be found at fristcenter.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and to members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, Café, and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting fristcenter.org.