The Art Nouveau Movement’s Exhibition Hall in Vienna, which is mostly referred to as Vienna Secession Building, was erected in 1897, supervised by its architect Joseph Maria Olbrich.
At the end of the 19th century, a group of young Viennese artists seceded from the long-established Association of Austrian Artists and founded a group of their own, which they called Vienna Secession (Wiener Secession).
This new art movement, which was similar to other Art Nouveau movements in Europe, was critical of the traditional confines of art as it was taught at the renowned art academies.
At the time, the prevailing artistic style was conservative and retro-minded. This traditional approach restricted the artists in their choice of artistic style and subject. In painting and sculpture, a true-to-life depiction of “classical” motifs was promoted, especially biblical, mythological or historical scenes.
The trendy style in architecture was a melting pot of all previous styles, often put together in one building.
This conservatism in art was later referred to as Historicism.
However, the young secessionist artists objected strongly to this uninspired concept of art. They wanted to express themselves in a new, young way, and to create an original art style that wasn’t a mere copy of former styles.
The new Secession movement was founded by artists like Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich and others.
As they weren’t allowed to show their art in traditional exhibitions, they had to organize some on their own. And the first step was an exhibition hall.
This Vienna Secession Exhibition Hall became an icon of the new movement and is used till this day as a showroom for modern art.
The gilt laurel leaves of the dome became the building’s identifying feature. The laurel leaves are a recurring pattern and can also be found on the pilasters and the wall.
Above the entrance, you see depictions of the three Gorgons, which are female creatures of Greek mythology, named Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. Their hair consists of living, venomous snakes, and they turn anybody who beholds them to stone. They were common attributes of Pallas Athene, the godess of wisdom, victory, and the crafts.
The inscription above the Gorgons reads in German: Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit.
In English: To every age its art, to art its freedom.
This sums the whole movement up and can be understood as its manifesto.
Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring in Latin) was the name of the movement’s magazine.
Inside the building, you’ll find not only exhibitions of contemporary art, but also the famous Beethoven Frieze, a painting by Gustav Klimt, dedicated to the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
As I couldn’t take photographs of it, I’ll show you a detail from Wikipedia.