It should come as no surprise that I love art galleries. Say what you will about elitism, and snobby gatekeepers but, at the end of the day, what I truly love is the physicality of the space that demands very little of its occupants, the quiet atmosphere that allows you to wander at your own pace and the sense of scale, texture and presence that can't be appreciated through a screen or through art textbooks.
While I am appreciative of contemporary art and the minimalist spaces of contemporary galleries, I have an unapologetic soft spot for the traditional, technical mastery of the Old Masters, Neo-Renaissance and Baroque-era styles. Before Europe, I hadn't really seen works in settings that channel those styles in themselves and this is where Europe does it so well. To say this entire Europe trip was productive for my inner visual arts nerd is an understatement - between Vienna and Prague, I managed to see the works of several of my favourite ever artists in person.
Tickets are not cheap but it is absolutely worth it if you love art and the entire place is modern and catered for visitors (including lockers for your things).
Protip: Bring your student ID card for discounted entry. Applies to most museums/galleries across Europe.
Belvedere Museum was the one non-negotiable on my Vienna travel list and it was due to a certain MrGustav Klimt, who has been one of my favourite artists since I appropriated Danaë for my Year 9 Visual Arts title page. Klimt's blending of flat graphic design elements and classic technique has always been a huge influence for me, and it's amazing to actually see the gold leaf shining in the gallery lights. The Belvedere also houses paintings by Klimt's protege, Egon Schiele, which was great to see as well - I tend to love Schiele's sketches better than his actual work but his use of colour (early Impressionism ftw) and texture is fascinating. I think the impulse to start photographing is not so much about narcissism but just the desire to somehow preserve what your eyes are taking in. Even with half a day to wander the rooms, it was a lot of visual stimuli to take in, and I know enough about my own memory to know it's not going to last forever. So those photos are staying on my phone for those miserable ennui-laden afternoons where encountering a LQ photo of an artwork will be the fleeting shot of nostalgic joy that might cut through the clouds.
Do spend some time wandering around the Belvedere Palace gardens because their finely manicured, patterned lawns are works of botanic art in themselves. Looking at the flowers, I was suddenly struck with how familiar the arrangement of blooms and colours looked - I could swear I've seen this colour combination on some artwork or another before, and it hit me then that those artworks were probably based off similar flowers to what I was current seeing - decades, perhaps centuries ago. That was perhaps the biggest close-to-history moment.
They say you shouldn't meet your idols (and you'd really hope not to meet them too soon if the ones in question are dead European men), but you should definitely ogle at their works in person.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum was even more jaw-dropping, and I'm even not talking about the full-fledged, red carpeted, lion-statued staircase that lies at the centre, straight out of every single movie ever. The high-ceilinged domed building is 6 levels high, full of rooms with plush leather couches and wall-sized Tripoli paintings you have to stand on the other side of the room to appreciate. It's amazing that a place like this came across as stately and elegant, instead of tacky or visually overwhelming but I think the sheer size of the place allowed everything to 'fit'.
There was no better place to test my resolution to exercise maximum restraint with my camera than in the Picture Gallery. One thing you don't realise until you're there: the 16th and 17th Century paintings areso flat. Even from the side, you can barely make out any brushstrokes. I tried my best to capture the pieces in context and how the consideration of surroundings and method of presenting a piece of art is just as much part of the artwork as the physical piece itself.
Just don't get too invested in staring at the coin collection that you miss possibly the most important suite in the Museum containing the Imperial jewels and crown. Apparently I missed that.
Part of the reason is because I think I spent a good 5 minutes just staring at the Rembrandt portrait that I couldn't believe I was seeing in real life. Give me a few more weeks in Vienna and I will spent at least one living in their art galleries with a sketchbook. Lord help me, when I eventually go to the Louvre and Met. You might have to let me sleep there.[/one_half_last]