SURREALE WACHTRÄUME, 26 March – 3 May 2019

Curated by Dr. Agnes Husslein-Arco

The KUNSTRAUM im Kinsky is devoting its second curated exhibition to the Viennese artist Kurt HÜPFNER (*1930), who has been creating his multifaceted and enigmatic works “covertly” since the 1960s.

The exhibition Surreale Wachträume (Surreal Daydreams) in the KUNSTRAUM offers the rare opportunity to rediscover the remarkable oeuvre of the “outsider of the art business,” Kurt Hüpfner. A cross-section of Hüpfner’s some 3,100 objects, curated by Agnes Husslein-Arco, shows key works from main creative periods of the still-active artist—from his initial graphic works, his drawings, and his distinctive assemblages of the 1970s to the small sculptures that largely characterized his creative output beginning in the mid-1980s. Kurt Hüpfner’s cross-media work blends the genres of drawing, painting, and sculpture in an idiosyncratic manner and can simultaneously be understood as a reflection on the most important positions of twentieth-century art.

The drawing has always served as the point of departure for Kurt Hüpfner’s artistic work. He bases it on the technique of écriture automatique, automatic writing, which the artist encountered during a stay in Paris. With Hüpfner, however, this is more than simply a pure translation to paper of inner impulses; the result always displays a concrete form. Hüpfner’s drawings usually serve as a model for the translation of the idea to another medium.

Kurt Hüpfner’s painting, on the other hand, for the most part reveals distinct Neo-Expressionist tendencies, although he frequently also makes use of the pure, bright colours of Pop art.

Hüpfner’s sculptures can be seen as a systematic translation of a drawing into three-dimensionality. The artist often makes use of found materials such as terracotta, plaster, and wood.

The central theme of Kurt Hüpfner’s art is a world of premonition and prophecy. His work frequently depicts creatures from myths and legends, but his attention is drawn to literary, historical, and political figures as well. In his art, Hüpfner also often processes memories of war and terror or addresses current political events.

A visit to the exhibition Pop etc. in 1964 at the former 20er Haus, for example, inspired the artist to create his own characteristic drawings, paintings, and assemblages, which formally were oriented toward Pop art but in terms of their content explored such topics as politics, war, and literature. What makes Hüpfner, who began as a commercial artist and caricaturist, so special is his ironical and critical approach to socially relevant themes from the 1950s through the 1990s, which he incorporates into his work. Hüpfner’s oeuvre is thus one of the few examples of the reception of Pop art in Austria. In the 1970s the artist developed an unmistakably individual style that is expressed particularly in small-format plaster and terracotta sculptures, often painted with oil paint. These small sculptures are many-faceted “magical creatures,” each of which has its own story to tell.

Hüpfner’s art remained largely unnoticed by the general public until 2006. Since then his works have been displayed in a number of solo and group exhibitions. In 2016 Agnes Husslein-Arco mounted the first solo exhibition devoted to him in a museum setting in the former 21er Haus (now Belvedere 21) and initiated the establishment of a comprehensive online catalogue raisonné at the Belvedere Research Center, which is continuously updated.

The presentation of this cross-section of works by Kurt Hüpfner at im Kinsky reintroduces the artist as a new discovery in the framework of Austrian art history. As a special feature, the exhibition will present a replica of Kurt Hüpfner’s studio with personal furnishings and an arrangement of the objects that allows visitors to experience the unique atmosphere in which Hüpfner’s extraordinary art is created.

With a few exceptions, the objects in the exhibition are available for purchase.