I have never liked museum labels and brochures. I wanted to find another system to present information about the collection
and about the times in which the objects were made. I tried to think of an appealing way to show a super-abundance of text
on Biedermeier and Empire. I chose electronic signs with large memories to talk about why what was produced for whom. The
signs display the predictable facts, and softer material such as personal letters of the period. Because some people hate
to read in museums, I placed the signs near the ceiling so they can be ignored. To encourage people who might read, I varied
the signs' programs and included special effects. For serious, exhausted readers, I provided an aluminum mock-Biedermeier
sofa on which to sit. I also rearranged the furniture, silverware, glassware, and porcelain, as would any good housewife.
/ Jenny HolzerA heterogeneous mass of consumers arose during the first half of the nineteenth century, something never previously seen in
Austrian cultural history. With the effects of the Industrial Revolution and the growing cultural, social, and economic strength
of the middle class, it became both possible and necessary to produce differentiated products for these consumers. It now
became both necessary and possible to put at the disposal of the more general public items that had previously only been available
to a small circle of consumers. Besides the wide variety of tastes, the range of products on offer was therefore also marked
by a subtle gradation from expensive luxury items to cheap substitutes. A generally understood language for materials and
forms thus emerged, which was no longer specific to any particular social stratum, but instead determined by financial factors.
The depictions were no longer symbolic in character, but were related to real people, things, and events.The selection of objects displayed here therefore shows, alongside outstanding achievements of Austrian art and craft production,
above all the variety of designs and materials used for everyday commodities during the Empire and Biedermeier period. The
explosion of richly varying forms is demonstrated by a series of variations in chairs, porcelain cups with a limitless range
of moods, glasses conveying all sorts of information, and silverware pieces with designs ranging in character from abstract
to decorative. / Christian Witt-Dörring (curator of the MAK Furniture and Woodwork Collection during the phase of the reinstallation
of the MAK Permanent Collection in the early 1990s)
Permanent Collection Empire Style Biedermeier
Artistic intervention: Jenny Holzer
Besides brilliant achievements in the arts and crafts production in Austria in the nineteenth century, the Empire and Biedermeier
Collection on permanent display shows the creative and material versatility of an epoch marked by cultural, social and economic
upheavals in the wake of the industrial revolution.
Born in 1950 in Gallipolis, Ohio. Lives and works in New York State.
The media artist Jenny Holzer investigates the means and possibilities for disseminating her own ideas and artistic concerns
in public space. Since the 1970s, she has been using such media that allow her work to blend with its environment. The texts
in her work are comments that harmonize with their surroundings. They stimulate perception and confront the viewer with social
circumstances that are communicated by the specific conditions of the site.
Guided toursSpecial guided tours by advance booking: Gabriele Fabiankowitsch, Head, MAK Educational Programs
T +43 1 711 36-298,