Boy Tour Leg 2: 1980/81, Europe, America


'Painting Swap'

28 August 2010
'Painting Swap'
Vienna.  Day off.

With it having become apparent that, for the sake of safety and humanity, the 360 show requires a proper travel day then a load-in day between each pair of cities, this year's tour schedule is a little more relaxed than that of 2009.  Even so, it is extremely rare that the entire crew will ever get two whole days off in one place, as they are having at the moment.  There are about 130 of us staying at Mrs. Miggins' B&B, and given how compact Vienna's 1st district is, it was inevitable that we'd spend much of the day running into one another.  This was rather nice - not least to see the crew enjoying some actual recuperation time - but also because it gave a real 'village square' feel to proceedings.

I got up early (for me) and went to CaféMozart for breakfast, where I ran into Jake our production manager and Richard the swagman.  After this, I headed across the street to the Albertina museum to follow up on a 'painting swap' I'd agreed with Stewie, one of the lampies.  I'd sat next to him on the bus coming in from the airport and we got chatting about Vienna.  He said his favourite painting was in Vienna, to which I'd replied that mine was too.  His favourite, he said, was Alexej von Jawlenski's Young Girl in a Flowered Hat, of which I confessed I'd never heard.  He couldn't put into words quite what it is about that particular painting he likes so much, but I guess that's the whole point of art.  My painting is Bruegel's Hunters in the Snow, which is at the marvellously named Kunsthistorichesmuseum.  Stewie didn't know this painting, so we agreed we'd do an art swap whilst we were here.

Somehow I never managed to make it to the Albertina when I lived here (though spending 14 hours a day in a theatre might have had something to do with it) so it was wonderful to go and finally discover the place.  It's an odd mixture of a place both physically (with that architectural fusing of baroque with the aggressively contemporary that the Viennese seem to do so well) and in its collection.  The top floor has a show from the permanent collection, which is a fantastic romp through modern painting from the impressionists to the present day, whilst the two floors below house 'state rooms' full of 18th century furniture.

The task of locating a painting about which I knew nothing more than the title gave some vague focus to my peregrination, along with a small sense of victory when I eventually came across Young Girl in a Flowered Hat.  I recognised it at once, of course, being one of those works of art that is immediately familiar, even though you'd never be able to say why you know it.  I liked it very much, despite my not having ever felt any particular affinity with the Russian avant garde.

After Jawlenski, I took a pit-stop at Sacher's hotel before taking a tram round to the Kunsthistoriches Museum.  This place is old-school art museum housed in two colossal Baroque buildings.  The Bruegel room is panelled with dark oak and has green velvet couches to slump on whilst contemplating the fate of humanity (a subject that viewing Bruegel tends to bring to mind).  There are about ten large works in the room including the magnificent Tower of Babel, plus The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (what a concept!), and of course Hunters in the Snow.  Bruegel's subject matter ranges from the domestic to the eschatological but somehow he manages to handle the two extremes with equal ease and with stylistic consistency.  Something about the work resonates with me and examining them from a green velvet couch was like having an art bath for half an hour or so.

I had some errands to run and some shopping to do of the socks-and-toothpaste variety but even this I accomplished quickly and completely.  It was a bit of a slam-dunk day and all before 3pm.  A couple of friends had come over from London today so we met up at Sacher's before strolling through the old town to find dinner.   A fine evening all round.

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08 September, 2010
City of art
Dear Willie, thank you very much for your amazing story about the capital of my country!!! Your descriptions about art and architecture are perfect. It is great that you spent so much time going to famous coffee houses like Sacher (yes, Viennese coffee culture is unique) and art museums. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the greatest places, because it shows the whole history of art like paintings from Middle Ages, renaissance and baroque and much more. I am also fascinated by the paintings from Bruegel, because they show impressive landscapes and also many details. And at the Albertina I particularly enjoy the exhibitions with contemporary art.
08 September, 2010
Dear Willie
Please can you carry on writing your diary even once the tour is over and done with? The working day is so much more civilized when broken up by a mid-afternoon visit to these pages.
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