The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 29, 2022


With morbid humour, Viennese look death in the eye
A hearse miniature is on display at the Funeral Museum in Vienna, Austria on October 20, 2020. Even in midst of a deadly pandemic, the Viennese seek to look death straight in the eye -- an attitude on display at a morbidly humorous museum devoted to death and burial. JOE KLAMAR / AFP.

by Blaise Gauquelin



VIENNA (AFP).- Even in midst of a deadly pandemic, the Viennese seek to look death straight in the eye -- an attitude on display at a morbidly humorous museum devoted to death and burial.

Right below the funeral parlour of the Austrian capital's famous Central Cemetery, burial shrouds and coffins have been on display since 1967, making the Vienna Funeral Museum the first museum to trace how we mourn the dead.

It is perhaps fitting, given the local expression: "Death must be a Viennese".

"A lot of people are probably afraid of death, but it's inevitable -– along with taxes! –- so it's a good idea to show that things haven't changed that much," says visitor Jack Curtin, a Vienna resident of American origin in his 70s.

After a day spent touring the graves of the great and the good, he has taken in the museum collection together with a friend, pronouncing it "excellent".

In normal times tourists from as far afield as Japan and Canada would come to marvel at the re-usable coffins -- introduced in the 18th century by Austrian Emperor Joseph II -- as well as the futuristic-looking "cocoon" coffin.

But thanks to the blow dealt to travel by the pandemic, the Viennese will largely have the site to themselves on Halloween and All Saints Day.

Morbid side
Despite the pandemic, however, the museum's new temporary exhibit commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven is drawing visitors.

Alongside insights into the life of the German composer, who was laid to rest in the Central Cemetery, the exhibition also naturally includes his death mask and objects relating to his funeral.

Fellow composer Joseph Haydn was also buried here -- although his skull, stolen by medical students in 1809, was only recovered nearly 150 years later.

"Vienna is well known for its morbid side," says visitor Julia Wuerzl, who has come for a stroll through the leaf-strewn grounds that serve as a last resting place for three million people, outnumbering the city's living residents by more than one million.




As the coronavirus pandemic has taken hold, the museum says that it felt encouraged rather than dissuaded to keep its doors open, hoping to help locals consider death as a part of life.

"I believe that because of coronavirus, people spend more time contemplating what kind of significance death could have for their life," as well as how they would like to be buried, says museum spokeswoman Sarah Hierhacker.

Lego death match
Recent trends include the use of compostable urns as well as of a new area dedicated to joint burials of people and their pets that allows for "strong bonds to be safeguarded beyond death," according to a brochure.

The one thing that's frowned upon, however, is dodging the subject, even when it comes to children: The museum's gift shop offers Lego sets of crematoriums, hearses, and skeletons.

"While it is certainly necessary to choose words that are suitable for them, it's still crucial to be clear and transparent with children of all ages, because taboos create fear and a sense of being abandoned", says psychotherapist Michaela Tomek, who specialises in treating children who have experienced trauma, such as the death of a parent.

The Gothic Lego figurines, some of which are reminiscent of the Addams Family characters, have long been among the gift shop's best selling items, but the latest hit has been funeral service-branded face masks.

"Denying the coronavirus secures our jobs," reads a typical piece of black humour printed on one of the masks.

"We produced 3,000, but we've had 7,000 orders," says Hierhacker, looking on as a disappointed visitor leaves empty-handed.

As elsewhere, the pandemic is on everyone's mind, leading a visitor to indulge in some gallows humour and ask if Vienna will put its once infamous "hearse tram" back into service.

At the height of the 1918-1920 Spanish flu, the tram transported thousands of bodies straight to the central cemetery.

A century later, the public transport line 71 still follows the same route, giving rise to the Viennese euphemism for death: "to take the 71".


© Agence France-Presse










Today's News

October 31, 2020

Exhibition commemorates the 250th anniversary of Giambattista Tiepolo's death

Remarkable records of Joni Mitchell's changes

Geta Brătescu is celebrated in two special presentations in Zurich this autumn

Christie's unveils the collection of Barbara Allen de Kwiatkowski, muse to Andy Warhol

Hindman's Western Paintings and Sculpture auction sets multiple new world auction records

Explore the incredible breadth of The Met's photography collection through three exhibitions now on view

Exhibition presents works made by Francesca Woodman in New York from 1979-80

Enzo Mari, industrial designer who kept things simple, dies at 88

Heritage Auctions announces the first-ever sale of 'Game of Thrones' storyboards and conceptual paintings

Rijksmuseum opens major exhibition of leading Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken

Galerie Max Hetzler exhibits new and recent paintings, drawings and sculptures by Glenn Brown

Aperture announces Zora J Murff as the recipient of the inaugural Next Step Award

Jan Van Imschoot presents a new series of restyled still lifes at Galerie Templon

Fontaine's Auction Gallery to be across-the-board sale Nov. 14

Yes, we liked the Berkshires shows. Here's $2 million.

Norway's National Museum stores a copy of its entire collection in the permafrost in arctic Svalbard

Six U.S. museums receive Art Dealers Association of America Foundation grants

Center for Maine Contemporary Art appoints new Executive Director + Chief Curator

The Western Wall, Salvador Dalí's only rendition of a holy site, heads to auction

The San Francisco Symphony plunges into a new world

Taft Museum of Art announces $10.7 million capital campaign

With morbid humour, Viennese look death in the eye

Socially distanced samba seeks to revive lost bliss in Brazil

London's Pax Romana presents fine antiquities, ancient art, jewellery and weaponry, Nov. 8 & 15

The Benefits of Learning About Plumbers Toronto Midtown

Why Kids Love to Learn to Paint & Draw with Online Art Classes

Apron Front vs. Farmhouse Sinks




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful