BADEN.- VISAGES bears witness to the artists lengthy and dramatic discourse with the image of his own face, his fascination with the facial expressions of death masks and, finally, his exploration of the depiction of faces in the history of art from antiquity through the end of the 19th century.
This comprehensive show features over 80 individual works and outlines the various forms and techniques Arnulf Rainer has explored from the 1950s up to today.We learn how the artist has taken on the challenge of recreating and restoring the figure to visual art after its deconstruction in the 20th century. To this purpose, he uses his own face like a tabula rasa, as a foundation that allows him to develop an art that is at once free from any kind of convention and at the same time attempts to reconstruct the lost connection between art and life.
The exhibition, curated by renowned French art expert and museum director Jean‐Michel Foray, shocks us with the radical nature of Rainers early works, becoming increasingly quiet as we travel toward the artists later pieces, as if at the end of our journey the artist attempts to convince us that painting as a visual expression of spiritual consciousness is still relevant today.
All displayed works come from the artists own collection; several are available to the public for the first time.
The Arnulf Rainer Museum inside the former Frauenbad thermal bath
The Frauenkirche was first built in 1297 as a large chapel above the Frauenbad spring, a gift from Heinrich von Pottendorf to the Augustine convent that had been established there in 1285.
The spring, which had probably been used even in Roman times, arose beneath the steps of the high altar and filled the bathing pool, which was built adjoining the church on the north side. The first written record of the Frauenbad is found in a document from 1357, when the bath belonged to Duke Albrecht II. In 1531, two years after a Turkish invasion devastated Baden, Emperor Ferdinand I gave the Frauenbad and the Neubad bathing pool that had been added on the south side of the church to the city as compensation for its losses.
In 1613, responding to misuse by members of the nobility and landed gentry, who had gradually usurped all bathing rights at the Frauenbad, Emperor Matthias appointed a separate courtBadgerichtto uphold the 22 orders of a new bathing decree, granting bathing access to all residents.
A great fire ravaged Baden in 1812 and severely damaged the Frauenbad. The bath was completely rebuilt in 1821 by Badens master builder Hantl, based on plans by the architect Ritter von Moreau. On 7 April 1821, Archduke Anton, a major benefactor of Baden, laid the cornerstone for the new baths, which opened on 11 July of that year. The memorial stone laid at that time is now in the foyer of the Frauenbad.
After construction defects became apparent, thorough renovations were undertaken between 1876 and 1878 and the building was adapted to contemporary standards. As a result, Baden possessed a bathing complex with marble interiors that not only matched the most exacting standards of its visitors but was also uniquely beautiful. Distinguished guests of the baths included Emperor Leopold and Empress Eleonora, Friedrich August Elector of Saxony, Emperor Josef I, and Emperor Franz I.
The Frauenbad thermal bath remained fully operational and almost unaltered until the end of 1973.
The Frauenbad as a gallery complex
From 1980 onwards, the building has been used as a gallery complex of national importance. In 1991 however, due to general deterioration of the building which meant that the exhibition rooms were no longer up to the standards of a modern gallery complex, the Baden municipal authorities decided to order the total renovation of the building. Work was completed in 1994, using the design of architect Werner Nedoschill. The renovated building has since hosted exhibitions by Christian Ludwig Attersee, Adolf Frohner, Arik Brauer and Ernst Fuchs.
In 2006,a decision was made to dedicate the Frauenbad gallery to the work of Arnulf Rainer, an international renowned artist and native of Baden. Architecture team Lottersberger‐Messner‐Dumpelnik was commissioned in early 2008 by the municipal authorities to adapt the building while retaining the characteristic architectural style of the historic building. The renovation work began in January 2009. The Arnulf Rainer Museum opened in September 2009 and is an example of how Viennese architecture has successfully achieved a balance between historical and contemporary building design. The completed project not only revives the charm of the original bathing complex but also employs state‐of‐the‐art elements of technical and functional design to create a thoroughly modern museum. The new Rainer Arnulf Museum was opened in September 2009 as a public institution honouring one of Austria's most important post‐war artists and his unique body of work.