3 Min Lesezeit

The MAK Vienna presents ‘ICONIC AUBÖCK. An atelier shapes the Austrian approach to design”, a comprehensive exhibition of the legendary Carl Auböck manufactory with 400 exhibits from the style-defining era of the interwar and post-war period and the 1980s.

Carl Auböck II, wooden table in the atelier, Bernardgasse, Vienna, around 1950 ©Werkstätte Carl Auböck
Carl Auböck II, wooden table, 1948, Loher Collection ©MAK/Christian Mendez
Carl Auböck II, Bottle stopper, 1952, Carl Auböck Archive
©MAK/Christian Mendez
Carl Auböck II, Bottle cap, 1952, Carl Auböck Archive ©MAK/Christian Mendez

The design classics from the Carl Auböck workshop are handmade, have a special charisma and have been considered influential for Austrian design for four generations. The Museum of Applied Arts Vienna (MAK) is now devoting a comprehensive exhibition to the legendary factory, which is still active today on Bernardgasse in Vienna’s seventh district. The focus is on the materiality of the multi-layered Auböck products made of brass, wood, horn, leather and natural fibers. Around 400 exhibits, including numerous individual pieces and prototypes, will be on display from May 15th to October 13th under the title ICONIC AUBÖCK. An atelier shapes the Austrian approach to design” insights into the characteristic designs, which were often ahead of their time and achieved worldwide fame. The focus of the exhibition is on the style-defining era of the interwar and post-war periods as well as on exhibits from the 1980s. The show chooses an unusual perspective and approach, “through the lens of surrealism.” What you can expect: “everyday objects that turn the interior into a field of experimentation for beautiful things and humorous gestures from the rich repertoire of the Carl Auböck workshop, including corkscrews, chess sets and clocks.” 

Whether paperweight, tree table or lamp – the most important designs come primarily from Carl Auböck II (1900 to 1957), who, inspired by the Bauhaus, where he studied from 1919, brought together local and international movements. He also incorporated the concept of the “objet trouvé” into his avant-garde repertoire and developed a distinctive sculptural language with minimalist, abstract, organic or technoid combinations of materials, shapes and surfaces on a small scale. Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1928, is said to have had an unusual set of paperweights by Auböck on his desk in the USA, where he lived after his emigration at the end of the 1930s – the hand, the foot, the egg ( a homage to Constantin Brâncuși’s “Beginning of the World”) and a stone set in leather. Carl Auböck II’s biography must be seen in the context of contemporary Austrian history: According to the museum, from 1933 he was a member of the NSDAP, which was illegal in Austria, and after the “Anschluss” in 1938 he was admitted to the NSDAP as a regular member. He was treasurer of the “Vienna Arts and Crafts Association” and, as the labels on individual objects show, his works were presented by the Werkbund. In 1943, Carl Auböck, arts and crafts metal workshop, took part, together with Josef Hoffmann, J. & L. Lobmeyr, Karl Hagenauer, among others, in the German Werkkunst exhibition in the State Decorative Arts Museum in Vienna, as the MAK was called after the annexation in 1938.

For the first time, the MAK is also presenting the work of the sculptor and textile artist Mara Uckunowa (1895-1987), who met and married Carl Auböck II at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Uckunowa’s artistic development was influenced by Johannes Itten, Georg Muche and Josef Albers. Their son, the architect and designer Carl Auböck III (1924-1993), inspired by his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and international collaborations, made the Auböck studio known worldwide. Designs by Carl Auböck IV (*1954) ultimately led to products for Hermès and Tiffany, which are also presented. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication edited by Lilli Hollein and Bärbel Vischer with contributions by Kimberly Bradley, Lilli Hollein, Nina Schedlmayer and Bärbel Vischer.

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