Austria’s Largest Museum is Celebrating

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is 125 Years Old

The Kunsthistorisches is not only Austria’s largest museum, it is also the country’s most visited arts collection and – according to the May 2013 issue of The Times magazine – one of the world’s ten best museums. This year it is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its opening.

The Neue Burg, beyond the Ringstrasse, the Imperial Treasury in the Hofburg and the Imperial Carriage Museum in the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace all belong to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Ambras Castle in Innsbruck is
a branch of the Kunsthistorisches.

Several features of royal collections accumulated over the centuries can be identified in the museum. Its works of art reflect the refinement and taste of the Habsburgs, and the collection is closely connected with their fate. The rich artwork collections established earlier were brought together in the imperial capital during the course of the 19th century from cities where the Habsburg dynasty had enjoyed a long-lasting presence, such as Prague, Madrid, Brussels and Innsbruck. Today they represent the core of the current collections.

This year’s anniversary events began on 7 March with the opening of the temporary exhibition FesteFeiern on the theme of celebratory customs and traditions. Using art objects from different eras, the aim is to show the celebrations of ruling dynasties, urban burghers and village folk. The display highlights banquets, open-air events, carnivals, coronation parades, wedding processions and birthday gatherings, as well as the objects associated with them. For the first time the public can see the huge, 17-metre-long table cloth, which Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ordered in 1527 for an Order of the Golden Fleece banquet. The exhibition, which runs until 11 September, includes the knightly attire of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, as well as creations of the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A series of five-minute films called 100 Masterpieces has been broadcast on Austria’s ORG III channel since early March. A new development is that from this year items in the museum’s displays can be accessed on a mobile phone app called KHM-stories, and from the beginning of the year the website’s Monuments, Objects and Stories every week contains a new, interesting story from the museum’s 125-year history. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is offering a birthday present of its own to all visitors – throughout 2016 every visitor can enter the museum free of charge on their own birthday.