Testimonials Visiting Critics Vienna 2020

The Verein K residency program proved to be an unparalleled and enriching experience that provided exchanges benefitting both visiting critics (and curators) and the cultural context at large. Although intense, the time period was just about perfect for gaining an evocative view of the Viennese art scene while exploring the city along the way. What we experienced was a balanced program of visits to commercial galleries, artist-run spaces, artist studios, and institutional exhibitions, along with a peek at a major arts festival and a nonprofit space in Graz.

An essential aspect of the program was meeting colleagues based in other places, enabling us to share our common work experiences. This was both professionally valuable and personally affirming for people who generally work in isolation.

As an art professional, the more art you see and people you meet to exchange ideas and gather knowledge and information, the better you are able to do your job. So travel is essential, yet few if any art publications pay for expenses, and the writing fees are merely symbolic. In an art world driven by the market and the publicity that informs it, the art critic exists between a rock and a hard place—the publications seeking reviews that will bring advertising, and the institutions and artists seeking the value brought by publication. It is rare to be able to survey the art and cultural institutions of a context where you don’t reside outside of press trips, which present paltry opportunities as they are focused around particular shows funded or organized by the host. In most cases, the press trip is ethically questionable too yet practically necessary given the dynamics of the business. Clearly inviting a critic on the basis of a commission is problematic as it forces publication where it may not be warranted or genuine.

Thus the motivation to write about something must be strong—for intellectual, professional, or financial gain beyond the writing fee itself. This dynamic was something we were able to explore in our conversation at Vienna Contemporary art fair while having the opportunity to share and compare our impressions of the Austrian art scene.

Verein K’s Visiting Critics program is a rare and intelligent program providing exposure to a cultural context and its players for critics and curators, who will take inspiration from the encounters as fodder for future projects and collaborations for everyone concerned. For the scene of a city or country with few critics, it provides exposure that will certainly bear fruit in some form.

– Cathryn Drake (USA/GR)

My experience with the Visiting Art Critic residency by Verein K was very rich and inspiring. We did a busy programme of activities from artist studio visits and curator guided tours to alternative art fair and conventional art fair such as the viennacontemporary.  

I was very grateful for the quality of the programme, its planning and management, and most importantly, a warm and generous welcoming and care from Jelena, Dejan and Klaus. This was a very valuable 10-day programme to understand and explore the Viennese contemporary art scene.  

Also, thanks to the residency I have had further opportunities to write reviews for Ocula magazine. And, thanks to the exposure and visibility of the residency at viennacontemporary art fair, where we delivered a talk, I gained very great contacts with local practitioners.

– Cindy Sissokho (FR/UK)

Verein K’s Visiting Critics residency offered an unparalleled opportunity to explore and become familiar with all levels of Vienna’s art scene, from the well-established museums to the young project spaces and independent initiatives to the commercial galleries and fairs. Throughout the stimulating and inspiring ten-day program, we had studio visits with artists, exhibition tours with curators, and even a discussion with a philosopher. I think we were also the only group of people to see all of the Curated By exhibitions (okay, fine, full disclosure: we did miss one show, but I still think we were the only people who visited 22 of the 23 participating galleries). 

I would have gladly accepted an invitation to such a well thought out and organized program at any time, but it was even more greatly appreciated in a year like 2020: When art experiences have primarily shifted to the digital sphere, being surrounded by a group of talented writers and curators while exploring a new city’s art scene was incredibly rewarding and an experience I am grateful to have had, both on a professional and personal level. Thank you, Dejan, Jelena, and Klaus, for the immense amount of time, energy and thought you put into coordinating and executing this program, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Thank you, Cathryn, Cindy, and Valentinas, for sharing this time and space. I’m happy to have met the Verein K team, the 2020 Visiting Critics, and so many figures from Vienna’s art scene; I am certain that we will cross paths once again in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future.

– Emily McDermott (USA/DE)

That was quite a trip to remember!

An hour after the plane had landed, Vienna was flagged as a red corona risk territory. Covid-19 became that invisible member of our international group, making it more hybrid, making our whole experience more hybrid, maybe even more hybrid than the “Curated by” Vienna 2020 program which was titled “Hybrids”!

Vienna and Graz – yes, we also made it to Steirischer Herbst ’20 – looked differently this time. Still baroquely pompastic, but vulnerable, emptier than ever. However, armoured with masks on and perfumed with hand sanitisers we made contacts, met artists, curators, philosophers, educators, visited prominent contemporary art institutions, tried various schnitzels, explored brilliant interiors of cafes and bars, wrote down details for our new editors (we were commissioned articles – I personally was commissioned by Springerin) and debated on a panel at Vienna Contemporary art fair.

So yes, that was quite a trip to remember! Thumbs, pens and slivovitza up to the brilliant Verein K organisers and since now also friends: Dejan, Jelena, and Klaus! Thanks, dears.

-Valentinas Klimašauskas (LT)

Verein K is an independent arts and cultural organization from Vienna, founded in January 2018. Verein K focuses on projects in the field of contemporary art and culture connecting diverse cultural and social interests: critical approaches to contemporary art, creating curatorial platforms as well as enabling innovative cultural practices including diverse social groups.

Verein K – Kunst, Kultur, Kommunikation 
ZVR – Zahl: 1413308554
+43 699 176 300 21 
IBAN: AT05 2011 1838 5345 0200