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Would Klimt have been a Graffiti Artist? Vienna’s Donaukanal

To every time, its art, to every art, its freedom.
(Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit)
– Motto of the Vienna Seccessionist artists, beginning of 20th Century

 Young, controversial, revolutionary and fired up to smash the bonds of society’s conventions. Art should be freely accessible to all social and economic classes. The more shocking, the better.

Over 100 years ago, Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secessionists fought for freedom of self-expression. Gustav Klimt went from creating classical paintings like Shakespeare’s Globe Theater on ceiling murals of Vienna’s Burgtheater to hair-raising depictions of sparsely-clothed, sexually-aroused figures like Judith in the throes of her climatic ecstasy clutching the disambiguated head of Nebuchadnezzar’s general, Holofernes, against her exposed breast in Judith.

Vienna has a long history of attracting groundbreaking artists and controversial bohemians. While the conservative Viennese can initially act reluctant to embrace new things, they are likewise rather good at not taking their ambivalence too seriously.  At the turn of the century, the Austrian government supported the talented and rebellious Klimt and his Secessionists friends with a lease of public land  to erect an exhibition hall for their work. The building, which the Viennese sometimes refer to as the “Golden Cabbage” remains today as a museum for modern art at the end of the Wollzeile – the Secession.

Perhaps for this reason it’s not so surprising that the Austrian government has made a similar gesture to the young, controversial, revolutionary artists of our generation – the graffiti artists, by granting them Vienna’s blessing to spray certain public areas.




Look for a sign with a pigeon and the words “Wienerwand” (Vienna Wall). If you’re like me and can’t find the sign, here’s some help — Vienna allows graffiti at the Nordbrücke, Nußdorfer and Roßauer Lände, am Yppenplatz and in Eßling AND, in my neck of woods — the Donaukanal.

So let’s grab an ice-cream at Schwedenplatz, take a nice cool stroll along the canal and admire the artwork of this generation’s radical philosopher-artists.

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Where? Donaukanal at the Schottenring (U2/U4 – exit Herminengasse) Station.

List of spray okay areas in Vienna:

More Reading:

Austrian daily paper – der Standard, article from March 18, 2014, from Michael Hierner, “Wo Graffiti-Sprayen erlaubt ist” (Where Graffiti Spraying is Allowed)

Fotos of Vienna’s Graffiti:

List of Places in Austria where Graffiti is legal:

“Stadt als Leinwand” – article from Sabine Karrer, July 18, 2013, Wiener Zeitung:

Mein Bezirk (my district) – links to graffiti art:

Graffiti of Donaukanal from 2008 (Photos from Philipp Balga)

Austrian artist, Ernst Fuchs, also a revolutionary Gustav Klimt page