The Essl Collection has been officially transferred to the Albertina in Vienna. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Essl Collection as well as the Albertina itself. And at the same time, this acquisition of one of the largest private collections of contemporary art represents a milestone in the history of the Austrian Federal Museums.
With its over 6,000 works, the Essl Collection numbers among the world’s largest private collections of its kind. Groups of works by figures including Karel Appel and Arnulf Rainer, Franz West and Georg Baselitz, Maria Lassnig and Alex Katz, Erwin Wurm and Anselm Kiefer, VALIE EXPORT and Cindy Sherman, and photographs by artists ranging from Andreas Gursky to Candida Höfer characterise this collection’s unique richness and special profile.
In 2014, the Essl Collection was in danger of being caught up in the financial turbulences surrounding the group of companies owned by the Essl family. But that same year, the collection—in no small part thanks to the efforts of Dr. Hans Peter Haselsteiner—was placed under the ownership of a new company, thus ensuring its survival. Now, its permanent loan (until 2044) to the ALBERTINA places the Essl Collection beneath the umbrella of the Austrian Federal Museums.
“With this forward-looking cooperative arrangement, the Essl Collection has been saved for Austria. These highly important works of contemporary art by artists from Austria and abroad complement the collections of the Federal Museums in a unique way, making this a win both for art and for the Republic of Austria,” commented Minister of Culture Thomas Drozda.
“In the Albertina, we have found an ideal partner for the future of the collection,” said a cheerful Karlheinz Essl.
Klaus Albrecht Schröder: “Today is a shining moment in the Albertina’s over 200-year history. To my mind, this transfer of the Essl Collection to the ALBERTINA opens up an entirely new chapter in the history of this tradition-steeped museum and of contemporary art in Austria.”
I’ve maintained close ties with the Essl Collection for many years—as I also have with the Albertina. For me, the fact that these two great collections will now be brought together beneath the roof of the Albertina is a piece of good fortune indeed, and I think that also goes for all the other artists represented in the Essl Collection. I’ve always believed in Vienna, and I was sure that the best possible solution would be found for the Essl Collection.
The Essl Collection is not only a significant piece of Austrian art collecting history but also a major manifestation of important developments in the international art scene over the past several decades. Failure to keep this collection in Austria and ensure its permanent accessibility to the public would have represented a huge loss. It is a great boon for the public that the Essls have been active in this form—and that the Albertina will now be offering their collection a new and adequate home over the long term. The result, integrated into and in dialogue with the outstanding existing holdings of the Albertina, will be an exciting and important continuation of and expansion upon a great story of both collecting and of art.
(Max Hollein: Director, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco)
I’m ecstatic! For artists like myself, the decision to preserve the largest world-class collection of post-war Austrian art for the public is a cultural policy act of great foresightedness. Preserving this important art archive by integrating it into one of the most important institutions guarantees its permanence, its exemplary status, and its visibility. My warmest congratulations to all those decision-makers who were involved!
By assuming this collection, the Albertina has catapulted itself into the first rank of contemporary art museums. It was always clear to me that the art of our times could stand to involve several big players in our capital city of Vienna. And I think that the Albertina’s assumption of the Essl Collection is a courageous show of commitment to contemporary art.