The private museum that Austrian billionaire and art patron Heidi Goëss-Horten opened shortly before her death earlier this year is the venue for a new exhibition, ‘Look’ – a homage to its founder that juxtaposes art and fashion, picture and image.
Located at Stöcklgebäude in the heart of Vienna, the former city centre palace turned modern museum is positioned between the Vienna State Opera, Albertina, and Burggarten. The Heidi Horten Collection focuses on the interplay between the image of women vs the gaze on women, and ‘Look’ pays homage to its founder with its premier thematic exhibition.
The selected works reveal the collector’s preferences and strong personality by showcasing the art she surrounded herself with. Visitors can admire “glamourous divas, modern women of the avant-garde, contemplative portraits, psychologizing portrayals of femininity, fetish accessories, nude portraits, and feminist counter-positions” from the 19th century to the present day.
‘Look’ also explores the connection between fashion and art. Fashion designer Arthur Arbesser has curated a collection of 22 haute couture dresses designed exclusively for Horten by Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Patou, and Jean-Louis Scherrer. “For me, working on this exhibition was a journey into an unfamiliar world, one where I wanted to simply focus on resplendent beauty, but also on style, attitude, and of course, the woman herself,” said Arbesser.
The exhibition includes original drawings with fabric swatches that Horten received from couturiers or their workshops in Paris and order forms and correspondence that provide a glimpse into Horten’s creative vision of the dresses. A video developed by Arbesser and video artist Rosalisa di Natale is projected onto the museum wall to show how the clothes would have looked on Horten and how their glamour translates into how one carries oneself. “These unique dresses and the exciting art surrounding them in this collection give us an intimate look into Heidi Goëss-Horten’s sense of beauty and her creative spirit.”
Horten owned around 700 artworks in a collection she began building with her first husband, Helmut Horten, in the 1970s. When he passed away in 1987, leaving her his $1 billion fortune, she continued expanding the collection with mainly Expressionism and American Pop art. She shared her collection with the public for the first time in 2018 with Vienna’s Leopold Museum’s most-visited exhibition ever – “Wow! The Heidi Horten Collection”. She was inspired to establish a permanent venue for her collection at what was originally an annexe of the Albrecht Palais and the offices of Archduke Friedrich. The building, renamed Palais Goëss-Horten, now incorporates three floors of gallery space with two futuristic floating platforms.
“I am proud, with my collection and the construction of the museum to have created something lasting, which future generations will also be able to experience when they visit my museum and take joy in the art that has given me such joy for so long,” said Horten in a statement at the time of the museum’s opening.