Top artworks in Viennese museums include The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele’s Self Portrait, Pieter Bruegel’s Tower of Babel, Albrecht Dürer’s Field Hare, The Last Judgment Triptych by Hieronymous Bosch, The Venus of Willendorf, and Penacho Quetzal feathers headdress.
Given the fantastic temporary art exhibitions that Viennese museums stage every year, it is easy to forget that some of the world’s best and most famous artworks are in the permanent collection of museums in Vienna. The Kiss (1908-9) by Gustav Klimt in the Upper Belvedere is one of the most famous paintings in the world, as is Pieter Bruegel’s monumental The Tower of Babel (1563). The works below are the choice of the Vienna Tourism Board.
Savings Ticket for Museums in Vienna
Tickets to most museums in Vienna are available online for advance purchase but admission to most are also covered by the Vienna Pass – particularly good value for multiple-day tickets. The Vienna City Card covers transportation but gives only small discounts at the museums – around €2 depending on the sight.
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt in the Upper Belvedere
The Kiss decorates all kinds of items in Vienna from fridge magnets to plastic bags but Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece is only seen for real in the Upper Belvedere together with other Austrian works including several further by Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1908-09) is the uncontested highlight of the Belvedere collection. Measuring just under four square meters, this symbolic masterpiece depicts a pair of lovers locked in a tight embrace. In the work, which is on display at the Upper Belvedere, formal elements of Japanese art are joined by echoes of Byzantine mosaics and medieval panel painting.
The Kiss is a particularly impressive example of Gustav Klimt’s distinctive style. The artist’s use of ornamentation and silver and gold leaf created a unique atmosphere that seems to envelop the couple.
Belvedere, Upper Belvedere, Prinz-Eugen-Strasse 27, 1030 Vienna, www.belveder.at. Buy online tickets at Tiqets.
Egon Schiele’s Self-Portrait with Physalis in the Leopold Museum
Self-portrait with Physalis (1912) is one of Egon Schiele’s key works and part of the permanent VIENNA 1900 exhibition at the Leopold Museum. In what must be his best-known self-portrait, the 22-year-old artist sizes up the observer with confidence yet at the same time gives a distinct impression of vulnerability.
The Leopold Museum at the MuseumsQuartier has the world’s largest and most important collections of works by Egon Schiele, with more than 40 paintings and around 180 works on paper in its holdings. It also has its own Egon Schiele document center which takes an academic look at this exceptional artist’s oeuvre.
Leopold Museum, MuseumsQuartier, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna, www.leopoldmuseum.org. Buy online tickets at Tiqets.
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Pieter Bruegel’s monumental composition The Tower of Babel (1563) is one of the most famous, most copied, and most interpreted depictions of the tower’s construction. Tiny by comparison, the Flemish-style port in the painting gives an idea of the sheer scale of the structure. With painstaking attention to detail and encyclopedic interest, Bruegel integrated myriad details of building and artisan processes into the work.
The piece is usually on display in the Picture Gallery and will play a starring role in the world’s first major monographic Bruegel exhibition (Oct 2, 2018-Jan 13, 2019) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Vienna, www.khm.at. Buy online tickets at Tiqets.
Venus of Willendorf in the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna
This highlight of the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna collection is 11 cm high and 29,500 years old. The early-stone-age Venus of Willendorf figure, unearthed in the Wachau valley in Lower Austria in 1908, is among the world’s most famous archaeological finds. She is on display in the Venus Cabinet inside the museum on the Ringstrasse boulevard.
With 30 million items in its collections, the Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna is one of the best in the world. Its attractions included a huge collection of meteorites, stuffed extinct animals, terrifying dinosaur models, and a digital planetarium.
Museum of Natural History, Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Vienna, www.nhm-wien.ac.at.
Field Hare by Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer’s Field Hare (1502) is the most famous work in the Albertina’s treasure trove. For conservation reasons, the piece is not kept on permanent display. Instead, it is shown just twice over a five-year period, subject to the consent of the Austrian Federal Office for the Care of Monuments. A duplicate of the masterpiece can be seen in the Small Spanish Apartment in the Habsburg staterooms.
Fans of the hare should make a note of its next appearance: the Albertina will be mounting a major Dürer exhibition at the end of September 2019 – featuring his Field Hare.
Albertina, Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna, www.albertina.at. Buy online tickets at Tiqets.
The Last Judgment Triptych by Hieronymous Bosch
Hieronymus Bosch chose the form of a tri-fold altarpiece for his Last Judgment Triptych (ca. 1450-1516), on which he presented his phantasmagorical vision of Judgment Day: Jesus judges the souls, below him, the wicked are punished by strange demonic creatures, there are depictions of the Deadly Sins, the damned are trapped in eternal torment and only a handful of blessed individuals are guided into heaven by angels.
Bosch’s masterpiece will be on display at the Theatre Museum until 2020 while renovations are carried out at the Picture Gallery.
Picture gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna visits the Theatre Museum, Lobkowitzplatz 2, 1010 Vienna, www.akademiegalerie.at. Buy online tickets at Tiqets.
Kunst Haus Wien. Museum Hundertwasser
Bright splashes of color, irregular forms, and an abundance of green – the Kunst Haus Wien. Museum Hundertwasser, founded by the Austrian artist in 1991, is an unmistakable Friedensreich Hundertwasser original. This unique museum and exhibition space follows the famous artist and environmental visionary’s philosophical and design principles.
As a pioneer of an approach to architecture that responded to the needs of people and the environment, he planted trees on the roofs of his projects and created an early example of a vertical greening system with his “tree tenants” set into the facades of buildings.
Kunst Haus Wien, Museum Hundertwasser, Untere Weissgerberstrasse 13, 1030 Vienna, www.kunsthauswien.com. Buy tickets at Get Your Guide.
Penacho in the Weltmuseum Wien
The Penacho is the highest-profile exhibit at the Weltmuseum Wien, which reopened in 2017 following a major refurbishment project. The famous headdress – featuring hundreds of long Quetzal feathers and more than a thousand shimmering gold pieces – is the only one of its kind still in existence.
Extensive research into its history was conducted in a joint project involving academics from Mexico and Austria between 2010 and 2012. Dating back to the early sixteenth century, the piece was thoroughly cleaned and preserved before being put on show as part of the Weltmuseum Wien’s North and Central America collection.
Weltmuseum Wien, Hofburg, Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna, www.weltmuseumwien.at. Buy online tickets at Tiqets.
Austrian Post Savings Bank chair by Otto Wagner/MAK
Gebrüder Thonet produced this chair according to a design by Otto Wagner for the Austrian Post Savings Bank (1912-21) in Vienna.
Wagner pushed the boundaries associated with the traditional role of an architect, insisting on also creating a custom interior for the Post Savings Bank. He took it upon himself to personally attend to details such as the flooring, wall paneling, rugs, radiators, lamps, clocks, door handles, lecterns, light switches, chairs, desks, wardrobes, safes, and much more.
Otto Wagner’s armchair is part of the unique collection on display at the MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art. Originally founded in 1863 as a repository of samples, to this day the MAK provides an unusual connection between applied arts, design, architecture, and contemporary art.
MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna, www.mak.at.