MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art

With “Erwin Wurm. Schöner Wohnen,” the MAK’s Artists in Focus series continues to introduce artistic stances situated at the interfaces between applied art, fine art and architecture. The series is meant as an appeal to the public as part of the museum’s innovative positioning strategy for the MAK Permanent Collection of Contemporary Art. A central aspect of this effort is the realization of necessary acquisitions via sponsors and patrons in order to expand and enrich important parts of the MAK Collection.

In his artistic practice, Wurm—who is among the world’s most successful artists—alternates between sculpture and performance, scenic image and action, concept and punch line. In doing so, the artist provides instructions on how his works are to be added to and used, as well as on how objects can become sculptures via performative sequences. As producer and protagonist, Wurm designs scenarios of the everyday while at the same time touching on the established canon of high culture and art history. His popular-aesthetic works distort social utopias as reflected in social criticism.

“Schöner Wohnen,” an intervention developed by Erwin Wurm for the Permanent Collection of Contemporary Art, infiltrates and undermines classic interior furnishings with various narrative strands. The focus is on furniture—objects of functional value and the standard repertoire of the social space. Such pieces manifest attitudes towards life in a model fashion. Wurm overturns this world of things, however, and in the process he further exaggerates the functionality and symbolic nature of his objects. Starting with originals from between the 1930s and 1960s, he forms and animates furniture objects into applied sculptures, expanded by so-called “Action Models.”

Erwin Wurm has created a series of new “sculptural furniture” objects, some of them in cooperation with the MAK Workshops, specifically for this MAK exhibition. In these, he aims at precisely that paradigm shift between art and design which constitutes one of the major themes of the MAK Collection. While Donald Judd propagated drawing a clear distinction between the two, Franz West’s furniture pieces display visual codes of the sculptural; Heimo Zobernig, on the other hand, indifferently declares mass-produced objects to be themselves works of art.

Curator Bärbel Vischer


The series titled ARTISTS IN FOCUS shows the essential work categories of key contemporary artists in dedicated solo presentations. A crucial aspect here is the carrying out of necessary acquisitions through sponsors to extend and expand positions already in the collection. Such purchases have become impossible due to the MAK’s precarious financial situation since the transformation of the museum into a scientific-public law institution.

#1 Arnulf Rainer | #2 Alfons Schilling | #3 Padhi Frieberger | #4 Franz West | #5 Heimo Zobernig | #6 Franz Graf | #7 Liam Gillick | #8 Hans Weigand | #9 Plamen Dejanoff | #10 Erwin Wurm | #11 Walter Pichler