Der Palast der schönen Künste

Art - Installation
  • Galerie Amer Abbas, Wien
Palast der schönen Künste. 2008. Installationview.
approx. 440 x 360 x 1000 cm. mixed media

The Palace of the Beautiful Arts

“We built a fantastic palace by night […] a very fragile palace of matchsticks; at the slightest clumsy movement a whole part of the tiny building would collapse; we always started again.” (Giacometti)

Entering the gallery one simultaneously enters a room that is indicated by a wooden scaffolding. This construction refers to Alberto Giacomettis “The Palace at 4 a.m.” – a model made out of matchsticks describing an important relationship to a woman in his life.
Like Giacometti, Stephan Lugbauer defines his artificially created space as a palace – not by reconstructing an emotional condition, but by deliberately creating a situation in which the process of artistic work and the process of the creation of work itself is being reflected.

By calling the installation: “Marble, Wood, Paper and Bronze – the Palace of the Beautiful Arts”, reference is not only made to Giacometti, but also to Carlos Fuentes who speaks in his book “The Diary of Laura Diaz” about the Palacio de Bellas Artes (The Palace of the Beautiful Arts) in Mexico City, Mexico. Thus, Lugbauer composes a collage of ideas combining individuality and history with narration and ideas to create a reflection on art and reality.

Stephan Lugbauer’s installations echo his modus operandi, they reflect the production of his work and thematically raise issues that surround exhibiting and the value of art. He strives to illustrate how complex an involvement with art is, which processes and mechanisms attract attention and how his modus operandi refers to the thing in itself.

In the “Palace of the Beautiful Arts” two large-scale works are presented: the room in the back contains a bunker, through which a glimpse of an original can be caught seen through a darkly toned window. It is a last relic of an ephemeral tangible image, which stands on the origin of the progress: it all starts with the subjective interest evoked by an object, sign or idea. The wooden scaffolding above the objects connects not only the bunker in the back with the second object placed in the front room of the gallery – it also puts the progress, the development of a structure and language into a continuum. It seems that a way is being carved out – beginning with an image of the original and culminating in an object, which refuses any connection to an anterior.

As soon as these objects are present (in the atelier, the gallery, the artspace, …), the strategy of transformation works in favor of the artistic matter. It seems that the artwork cannot be without context! It appears as interesting in inverse ratio: the artwork is the context!
In this transformation the original meaning is largely stripped off and this loss provides a basis for the next step, where Stephan Lugbauer appoints his objects to a new reality.
Following the subject matter of the continuum or the path, the reflection of the prisma appoints like a signpost to the photograph in the third room of the gallery and that’s located outside the palace. The picture shows the moment of an auction in the Viennese Dorotheum, where a globe is being sold. This shifts the focus onto the mechanisms of the market, which functions and holds true to art as it does to all other consumption goods. Both – the globe and the auction – represent symbols of power and control to “sell the world”. To measure the surplus value of artworks as commodities is not so simple. The mechanisms regulating the market are subjected to constellations of power that the artist is scarcely granted access to. Since these mechanisms play also an important part in the production of art, one cannot apprehend the palace solely as a place of reflection on the production of art, it also appears to be a reflection itself – in response to society and the art scene. The installation acquires and analyzes signs, systems and mechanisms of the period by the time it emerges. It also describes the artist as a subject, which is forced to position itself constantly anew amongst certain ideals and profit-oriented thoughts.

Stephan Lugbauer is fully aware of this fragility, when quoting Giacometti speaking about the (real and emotional) model of the palace: “We built a fantastic palace by night […] a very fragile palace of matchsticks; at the slightest clumsy movement a whole part of the tiny building would collapse; we always started again.”