Design Notes Archive

Wiener Werkstätte

Wiener Werkstätte

There’s something especially magical about Vienna in the winter. The city’s charming town squares are transformed into movie-worthy Christmas markets and music from advent concerts fill the air. This year there’s even more reason to go. Vienna is home to Austria’s Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), which is something of a mecca for design lovers. Boasting the largest collection of Wiener Werkstätte objects in the world, this month the MAK celebrates legendary painter and graphic designer, Koloman Moser, with a comprehensive new exhibition. In 1903, he and architect Joseph Hoffman, founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) as an artist’s cooperative. Inspired by the English Arts & Crafts movement, they corralled a community of artists, architects, and designers to work together, bridging the gap between fine and applied arts. Where Arts & Crafts looked to the past for inspiration, the Wiener Werkstätte had eyes on the future, pioneering what became known as Viennese Modernism. It’s an aesthetic that we find deeply inspiring - don’t be surprised if you see references in a new collection of tiles that we are launching next month. 

Some say the greatest example of the Wiener Werkstätte’s collaborative ethos can be found not in Vienna but in Brussels. It was there in 1905 that Belgian financier and art collector, Adolphe Stoclet, commissioned the Vienna workshop to design his home - interior and exterior, with carte blanche creative control and a limitless budget. The project took six years to complete and captured the spirit of the Wiener Werkstätte as a gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), as it required contribution from artisans across all disciplines of the collective. The home, complete with its Gustav Klimt friezes, is now a UNESCO world heritage site but remains privately owned. While you can’t go inside, you can admire the architecture from the street and perhaps scoop up one of its treasures at auction (like this sale that recently totalled £1.4M at Christie’s).

If you should find yourself in New York this winter, a visit to the Neue Galerie is must. The museum champions early 20th century German and Austrian art, including an impressive collection from the Wiener Werkstätte. True to their multi-disciplinary roots, the group counted jewelry designers amongst their ranks and the exhibition currently on view reveals a host of these miniature treasures – including pieces by Moser and Hoffman. Make the most of your visit with kaffee und küchen at Café Sabarsky, the museum's Viennese style coffee shop overlooking Central Park. Time it with the winter snowfall for a truly magical view.

Koloman Moser: Universal Artist between Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffman runs from 19 December 2018 – 22 April 2019 at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / MAK.

Focus: Wiener Werkstatte Jewelry closes on 21 January 2019 at the Neue Galerie.

Photos © The Art Institute of Chicago, Palais Stoclet, The Neue Galerie