Since its establishment as a museum for art and industry, contemporary art has played an ideational role at the MAK. The objective
is to offer a laboratory for artistic production and an educational platform: applied art is placed in the context of both
fine art and architecture in order to generate synergies. These programmatic considerations led to the establishment of the
MAK Collection of Contemporary Art in 1986.
The starting point of this confrontation with contemporary art and the basis of the MAK Collection of Contemporary art consists
in the artistic interventions in the museum’s permanent collection: the early 1990s saw figures including Barbara Bloom and
Donald Judd charged with the development of new forms of presentation for the MAK’s historical holdings in close collaboration
with the museum’s collection curators. Planned as alternative approaches and a continuation of the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), these innovative ways of exhibiting reflect the principle according to which an artwork can be understood
both as being embedded in a historical context and from the vantage point of said context.
The main focus of the MAK Collection of Contemporary Art is on international contemporary art stances with special attention
given to selected Austrian artists. The lion’s share of these works were created within the context of exhibitions and projects
developed specifically for the museum, with the exhibition medium itself participating in the works’ history and artistic
production in a way comparable to that of a snapshot. In this way, relationships of continuous collaboration with regard to
conceptual strategies of artistic practice developed with artists including Walter Pichler, Franz West and Heimo Zobernig.
The MAK Collection of Contemporary Art is characterized by the contextual shifting of applied art, design and architecture.
The methodical juxtaposition of works from multi-genre areas of the MAK Collection with contemporary art opens up new perspectives
on various historical aspects, with political issues also coming into view. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov decipher the concept of
utopia, while Marko Lulic deals with sociocultural phenomena of modernism and Peter Friedl and Georg Herold question the construction
of history. In large-scale installations, Atelier Van Lieshout, Liam Gillick and Josef Dabernig examine topics such as societal
values and institutionalized systems.
Architecture as a theme of visual art is a further element of the MAK Collection of Contemporary Art, with new perspectives on the performative aspect of architecture being put up for discussion. Werner Feiersinger, Andreas Fogarasi, Martin Kippenberger, Gordon Matta-Clark and Dorit Margreiter sketch unusual ideas of architecture and refer to their sculptural qualities. Herbert Bayer and Alfons Schilling, on the other hand, deal in their sculptural works with phenomena of perception and interaction on the part of the viewer.