For more than 45 years, BEL ETAGE Gallery has been synonymous with masterpieces of Viennese Jugenstil /Art Nouveau, the glorious period that covered the years from around 1900 to the outbreak of the First World War and the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
It was a time of artistic awakening, during which Vienna played a pioneering role among the artistic avant-garde of Europe. At the same time, however, this era may also be regarded as the modernist swan song of a declining empire, a farewell that continues to be a hallmark of Viennese identity to this day.
Landmarks of the time were the founding of the Secession in 1897 and Wiener Werkstätte in 1903, whose artists and craftsmen are represented in our gallery with many of their outstanding works.
This explosive artistic movement, which shook Viennese society around 1900, was characterised not only by functional, modern buildings but also by extraordinary works of art – art that was conceived for and tailored to inspire and cater to the open-minded citizen of the early 20th century who was efficient and rational and yet an aesthete. For the then Viennese society, which was still completely into pomp-loving historicism, these first objects of purist austerity came as almost a shock. However, it is precisely their presumed lack of flamboyance that made them so iconic. For the artists of Wiener Werkstätte were breathing new life into the Viennese tradition of first-class craftsmanship.
"You can indeed feel the artist’s spirit and the craftsman’s soul radiating from the finished object. At a first glance their design may not seem particularly striking, but this is precisely what makes these works of art so impressively powerful. There is an inner quality to them that defies the laws of maths. If one, for instance, puts several works by Josef Hoffmann together, rather than just looking at one single object, one can effectively feel their accumulated power. Although they might be considered just “dead matter”, these works of art are filled with life and soul”.