Text: Dr. Elke Backes
The impulse, or, rather, the incredible longing of wanting to visit this art festival, came over me in New York. Stressed by the hectic style of this city, in a stuffy, gloomy hotel room across a noisy construction site, I trawled through the current news in my Instagram account and got stuck on the following picture: Andrea von Goetz, barefoot, on a lush green meadow, sitting at a crystal clear stream, under an unbelievably blue sky, with greetings and the invitation to the sommer.frische.kunst. Festival in Bad Gastein in Salzburg County. And even if every New York afficionado now howls in protest: I wanted to be exactly there at exactly that minute.
A few weeks ago it finally happened. What a contrast: The room in Hotel Regina decorated beautifully and with great care, a breath-taking view of the mountains, 1000 m high, fresh air, in the background the sound of a thundering waterfall, cascading down from the Hohe Tauern right into the middle of the town. Plus – a fantastic art program. Yes!
Impressions of Bad Gastein, t.l.: view from the window of the room in Hotel Regina, r. Panorama of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Promenade.
Andrea von Goetz opens the festival with solo exhibitions on the art mile of Kaiser-Wilhelm-Promenade. Pure retro charm! Barbara Probst performs in the historic Pavilion, Ulrike Theusner in the former Spa Hotel Astoria and Xenia Lesniewski in the Ike-Room (for which a separate art dialogue is going to follow). There are multifaceted interactions between the exhibitions and their surrounding architecture, thus reacting to the particular ambience of Bad Gastein. “Mysterious”, “morbid“ or “magic“ can be heard over and over. Definitions of the atmosphere reflected by the history of the place.
Impressions of the opening night: t.l.: Barbara Probst, b.l.: Ulrike Theusner, m.: Ulrike Theusner, t.r.: Andrea von Goetz in front of Barbara Probst, b.r.: Xenia Lesniewski (Photos: ©Hannes Wichmann).
As a former imperial and spa resort as recently as the turn of the century and more recently a favourite place of the jet set, it was above all the elegant Belle Époque buildings – in addition to the spectacular natural environment – that had shaped the image of Bad Gastein and, fortunately, this is gradually happening again. In between, all the glamour seemed to have vanished. Many of the buildings were dilapidated; the cityscape was dreary with many empty buildings. Thanks to the initiative and investments of stakeholders such as hotelier Olaf Krohne and architect Ike Ikrath, a revival took place over the last twelve years, to which Andrea von Goetz’s passionate commitment to the sommer.frische.kunst. Festival also made a significant contribution.
The festival, with which she launched an artist-in-residence program in 2011 with a steadily increasing impact within the contemporary art scene, presents itself anew this year with no less than three first presentations: The art fair: Art:Bad Gastein, the exhibitions of Masterclasses (both in the historical hydroelectric plant) and the open-air installations created especially for the location in Sportgastein, the high plateau at the end of the valley. All this takes place over a period of six weeks.
A project of an enormous organisational effort, which Andrea von Goetz, in addition to her work as an art consultant with her own gallery space (Collectors Room Hamburg), put together with a small team and the support of the Bad Gastein Tourist Board. What is it that continuously drives the thought of “Think Big”? We talk about the background in the Astoria.
In conversation with Andrea von Goetz in the former Spa Hotel Astoria (Photos: ©Hannes Wichmann).
E.B.: Let’s start with the question what it was that took you to Bad Gastein and started sommer.frische.kunst.?
Von Goetz: The trigger was a family visit that had brought us to this place for the first time in 2007. While exploring the surroundings, we discovered an old house in the museum village, which we then bought and renovated over a period of three years. It was during this time that I first heard about sommer.frische.kunst., which was founded in 2010 by some committed hoteliers and the young spa director of the tourism association, Doris Höhenwarter. The idea was to bring art, which had always been an important part of Bad Gastein, back into the town. The form had been cast, but there was no content. In this connection, I noticed the power station, that at that stage was still in its Sleeping Beauty slumber. Why not try and fill precisely this building with creative life? So off I went, with the concrete proposition, to invite artists to become artistically involved with this place over an entire summer, far away from everyday life and arthandlings. I got the support I had hoped for and, in 2011, started with my artist-in-residence program. Since then, the Tourism Organisation has consistently been the greatest sponsor of the festival, which established itself as one of the essential products for the promotion of tourism. The fact that we succeeded in restoring the power station during this period makes us all very happy. And, in order to continue successfully, being able to really concentrate ALL our strength, there has been, for the last few days, also the Kunstverein sommer.frische.kunst., which I established together with Ike Ikrath.
E.B.: Was it clear for you from early on that your project, which started as an artist-in-residence program, would take on such proportions?
Installations in Sportgastein, t.l.: Olaf Holzapfel(©Florian Kolmer), t.r.: Kazunori Kura; b.l. b. m.: Performance by Noriko Mazda Kura at the waterfall, b.r.: Opening of Art:Bad Gastein fair in the power station (Photos: ©Hannes Wichmann).
Von Goetz: The entire project grew organically. What was clear for me from the beginning was that if I would do something big, the promotion of artists would always have to be a priority. The fact that this romantic idea of an artists village that was buzzing around my head would develop, over the years, into an event of these proportions and organisational effort, was neither planned nor expected.
E.B.: And why this fair Art:Bad Gastein?
Views of the installations of the fair Art:Bad Gastein: t.l.: Galerie Feldbusch/Wiesner/Rudolph (Berlin), c.l.: View of the installation of the passage on the 2nd floor, b.l.: Galerie Carolyn Heinz (Hamburg), t.r.: Anna Jill Lüpertz (Berlin), b.r.: Van Horn (Düsseldorf), Photos: (©Hannes Wichmann).
Von Goetz: I thought this idea of a small, classy fair attractive, because it could be visited during a vacation, when people have time again to talk about art. We also hope to be able to attract new visitors via the extended network and to get them excited about the festival and its overall program. This, incidentally, also applies to the idea of the Masterclass, a variation of the the original Residence-Program.
E.B.: What exactly happens at the Masterclasses?
Von Goetz: Together with the young students of the master classes with Jorinde Voight (HFBK Hamburg), Anselm Reyle (HFBK Hamburg) and Christian Schwarzwald (Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien), their works are also presented in the power station, with the focus being on the promotion of upcoming talent. The three of them have once before been represented on exhibitions on the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Promenade and, because they know the local conditions, were able to prepare the students for their tasks. It was therefore possible for the participating artists to develop their works in their respective studios, without having to travel beforehand.
E.B.: Let’s be honest: With all this success, don’t you sometimes long for what it was like at the beginning?
Von Goetz: I look at the success of the festival with mixed feelings. It used to be much less complicated. I didn’t need to see the tax consultant, apply for sponsorship or worry about politics. I just sat with my seven artists in the power station, went hiking and only had to worry about how awesome the exhibition would be in the end. I sometimes think that I pressured myself onto a level, on which I can do far less of what I love doing and am good at, which is to select artists and talk about art. But, when they all pour in and every year a new and fantastic exchange about contemporary art takes place, this thought vanishes into thin air [radiant].
Andrea von Goetz
In the meantime, stock was taken and thought given to how to continue next year. And to give you an idea: The fair Art:Bad Gastein will continue, the artist-in-residence program will be offered in its traditional form and – as far as I and my planning for my 2023 summer are concerned – well, what do you think? Of course I will be there!