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Helnwein’s work on the town hall also ignites emotions there

Helnwein’s work on the town hall also ignites emotions there
Gottfried Helnwein’s works are seen differently not only on the streets, but also in the Gmunden town hall.
Image: APA/RUDI GIGLER

When the cultural committee of the municipality of Gmunden had to vote on a project for the Salzkammergut Festival, one man abstained from voting.
Implementation was nevertheless decided with at least one vote from all the factions represented in the local council. Those who gave the green light knew that the project was art by Gottfried Helnwein. It is also likely that Helnwein will not put an oversized picture of a Glöckler’s cap on the town hall. However, the exact motives were not known.

Despite this supposed unanimity in the decision, there are now disagreements within the town hall. Mayor Stefan Krapf (VP) defended the installations and pointed out the message they are intended to convey. “Of course I also understand the criticism of it,” he says. The FPÖ in Gmunden sees a “public forced happiness of the population” and shows “no understanding” for Helnwein’s works.

There are very different opinions among the Neos in Gmunden. City councilor Philipp Wiatschka says that he personally thinks that Gmunden is not well advised to use public space for such “mercilessly presented and disturbing works”. For Gmunden’s deputy mayor Uli Feichtinger (Greens), it is the task of art to shake things up and put a finger on the wounds of the times. “Now it’s important to use the excitement as an opportunity to discuss the taboo topic of violence in all areas of our society,” she says.

Dominik Gessert, SP city councilor in Gmunden, finds Helnwein’s art “very meaningful”, but his approach would be a project in which someone from the art sector explains art to local children and young people and points out the meaning. But Gmunden doesn’t have to continue discussing the whole year: the installations are only expected to be on display until April.

Stefan Krapf, Mayor of Gmunden (VP): The exhibits in public spaces are an opportunity to address these sensitive topics openly and to them
to bring surface.”

Ulrike Feichtinger, Vice Mayor (Greens): “Now it’s important to use the excitement as an opportunity to discuss the taboo topic of violence in all areas of our society.”

Dina Fritz, parliamentary group leader of the FPÖ: “We have no understanding of forced public happiness for the population, financed with tax money that could be used more sensibly.”

Dominik Gessert, city councilor (SP): My approach would be a project in which someone from the art sector explains art to children and young people on site and points out its meaning.”

Philipp Wiatschka, city councilor (Neos): “Are we well advised to use public space for such unsparingly presented and disturbing works? Personally, I don’t think so.”

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