06 Mar 2013 Vienna: The Toilet Of Modern Art
This is an entry in the We Said Go Travel Writing Contest written by Michael Seese from America. Thanks for your entry Michael!
Anyone can find the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, or the Trevi Fountain. Tourists flock to these attractions, though with good reason, of course. But it is stumbling upon the uncommon, the unexpected, the unique which makes a vacation memorable. Take Vienna, for example. Like most major European cities, Austria’s capital teems with museums which reflect the country’s culture and heritage. For lovers of classical works, there is the Museum Of Fine Arts. For equestrian fans, there is the museum of the Spanish Riding School, which chronicles the history of the world-renowned dancing white Lippazanner stallions. And for those who love whimsy, there is the Clown Museum.
Easily overlooked, though no less interesting, is the Toilet of Modern Art.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Here, aficionados of the absurd can flush with true panache. The TOMA, located several blocks east of Kolonitz Platz on Löwen gasse, is part of the Kahle Village, an “adventure shopping centre” designed by the late artist Friedenreich Hundertwasser. The eccentric Hundertwasser (1928-2000), nee Friedrich Stowasser, saw architecture as art, and advocated designs which brought humans and nature together.
Enter the Village’s shopping gallery through the eastern portal after drinking in the quirky courtyard, resplendent in its dizzying array of colors, textures, and objets d’vie re-purposed as art. The TOMA is located in the basement. After paying a modest fee and passing through a turnstile beneath an arch of black nouveau wrought iron, stop for a moment—unless the need truly calls—and take in the grainy blow-up of the Oberes Belvedere, which houses the Austrian Art Gallery. Stop and smile back at the grinning portrait of Charlie Chaplin outside the door. Then step into the men’s room—the only one I visited and photographed, incidentally—and step back to reflect upon the seven mirrors, cracked and varying in size, with raised mosaic borders. Turn to the walls, a mish-mash of rather distressed black and white tiles, variant in size and arranged in no particular fashion. Finally, peer down at the floor, following with your eyes the brown and white winding path. Though the room may feel warped, rest assured that it is fully functional.
If you’d like to see another nearby Hundertwasser work to whet your appetite on the way to the TOMA, visit the KunstHausWein, located at 13 Weißgerber strasse. After admiring this walk-in work of art—a private museum, incidentally—you may wish to satisfy your literal appetite and dine in the ground-floor restaurant, which specializes in local fare and too-tempting desserts. Once you have had your fill, waddle down Kriegler gasse south to Löwen gasse, and turn left. Continue for a few blocks. You’ll know you’re there when you see the HundertwasserHaus, a rainbow-hued apartment building which sticks out like a proudly sore thumb and boasts an assortment of columns and windows, of which no two are alike. A cobblestone courtyard along the side leads to the Village, which over the years has done duty as a post office garage, a gas station, and a workshop for a tire dealership.
Who said that art wasn’t cheap?
About the Author: Michael Seese has written three books: Haunting Valley, a collection of fictional ghost stories centered around his home town; Scrappy Business Contingency Planning, which teaches corporate BCP professionals how to prepare for bad things; and Scrappy Information Security, which teaches us all how to keep the cyber-criminals away. Other than that, he spends his spare time rasslin’ with three young’uns. Visit www.MichaelSeese.com to laugh with him or at him.