on Pawel Althamer at the Secession

entrance to the Secession

tunnel at the Secession

Pawel Alth sculpture

behind the tunnel at the Secession


A model example of Anti-art, Pawel Althamer’s piece at the Secession presents an object that is at once revered while also being completely dismissed.  For his installation, Althamer built a tunnel connecting the front main street entrance with the rear exit door of the building’s space.  Making this tunnel, the artist closed off not only the main hall gallery, but also the gift shop and the entrance foyer.  Standing on the original Secession floor, the tunnel is composed of white walls like those of a pedestrian passage through a construction site.   Here the normative expectations of visitors are not met as Althamer completely transforms the institution.  There are no exhibition fees, there are no docents and there are no guards.  In this piece, the artist converted the honored museum into a familiar and mundane public space.  

On the walls of the tunnel are drawings, posters, prints, and graffiti tags.  Althamer invited artists to participate in adding to the visual qualities of the tunnel and also left it open for any passerby or visitor to add their own mark.  With a similar concept but significantly different materials, Rudolf Stingel produced stunning works.  Here, the artist is unconcerned with aesthetics and walls of drawings look like the walls of a municipal toilet. 

In the backyard of the Secession, Althamer’s tunnel is transformed into a theatrical entrance making a stage out of the world around the exhibition hall.   In the open garden, the artist invited others to participate in happenings of music, installation, conversation and theater.  With no hierarchy, remnants of previous happenings and Althamer’s handsomely crafted figure sculptures litter the lawn.  Unlike Allan Kaprow’s ‘activities’ Althamer does not choreograph or dictate his agenda, rather he seems devoted to privileging impermanent institutional critique.

Wiener Secession, Association of Visual Artists Friedrichstraße 12, A-1010 Vienna

-Ezara Spangl

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