special exhibitions

AL HANSEN | Venus, Venus, Venus

08. March 2017 - 26. June 2017

Al Hansen and the Venus von Willendorf
(picture by Hans-Hermann Freiheitsschutzzone)

The small limestone figurine known as the Venus of Willendorf  was discovered in 1908 during excavation works by the Natural History Museum Vienna. It is one of the most precious artefacts in the world, depicting a nude woman with dense curly hair, or striking headwear, and with thin arms and voluminous breasts. The commonly used name for the statuette is in itself an interpretation, drawing a relationship between the 29 500-year-old figure and her much younger sister, the Venus of antiquity, the Roman goddess of love.
 
American Fluxus artist Al Hansen devoted a complex work group to the Venus of Willendorf, creating in several thousand works an exemplary figure that revolved around the mystic goddess figure. Al Hansen took both the age and the interpretation of the figure as his point of departure. He discovered that figures depicting women were the first human figurative artworks among them the Venus of Willendorf, and he was interested in the relationship between these archaic objects and his own work. He was less concerned with conforming with this model than in evolving a free interpretation, which, regardless of the specifics of its technical execution, repeats the same type in outline and plastic corpulence. In nonfigural works he also used titles like she, her, clit, hers in referencing this archetypal model of a woman, which can encompass many roles, from goddess to mother.
 
AL HANSEN (1927–1995) is primarily known as a performance artist. He was part of the circle around John Cage and was often to be found with Andy Warhol at the Factory. In 1965 he published A Primer of Happenings and Time/Space Art with New York's legendary Something Else Press.
 
The Natural History Museum Vienna presents a selection of Al Hansen’s venuses from the Collections of MUMOK | Museum of Modern Art Vienna, Christine König Gallery Vienna and from the private LMV Collection in Paris - specialized in Fluxus and Lettrisme - together with the famous model – the Venus of Willendorf .
 
Dr. Susanne Neuburger

On display in the ice-age corridor.