Good hunting in the Josefstadt?
Hunters in the 8th district? Looking at all those SUVs cruising through the streets you might well think so. Or when you come across the publishing company in Wickenburggasse that specializes in hunting and fishing. In fact, the tradition dates back much longer: The Habsburgs bought the Altlerchenfeld area as a hunting ground in 1337.
Since 2019, Vienna’s first and only gun and rifle museum can also be found in the 8th district, at Joh. Springer’s Erben in Josefsgasse right next to the English Theatre. The history of the renowned business goes back to the 1830s. Prior appointment is required to see the historic weapons manufactured by the company over almost two centuries. Through a glass wall, visitors can also observe the gunsmiths at work in the workshop, in the course of making, servicing and repairing weapons. Up to 15 bolt-action repeaters are produced here every year. This autumn, the company plans to double its output by resuming production of classic guns.
Emperor Franz Joseph was a regular customer; in 1872, he elevated Johann Springer to a rank superior court purveyor. And in the 1930s, Joh. Springer’s Erben was appointed purveyor to the court of Monaco.
Following her father’s death in 1963, Margarethe Springer took over the reins and led the company for 45 years. Her son, Christian Johann Springer, took over from his mother in 2008.
‘Coronavirus has also left its mark on us, of course,’ he says. ‘The big June auction had to be cancelled.’ With more than 1,200m2 of auction space and ca. 4,000 lots in three auctions per year, Joh. Springer’s Erben is one of the biggest weapons auctioneers in Europe. ‘More and more things are moving online,’ explains Springer, who has also picked up the digital scent. ‘Auctions are more crisis-proof. Here, we don’t have major slumps like in our flagship store in the city centre where the absence of the tourists is really felt. The impact of coronavirus on the 1st district is dramatic.’
Springer also has Vienna’s only shooting cinema. You can choose from various films, from fox to water buffalo, and practice your accuracy with live ammunition.
Interest in hunting is growing again. More people are taking the hunting exam, and the number of women who hunt is growing constantly.
Hunting, traditional customs and crafts are key elements in the work of Ina Loitzl, whose studio is on Albertplatz. She stitches, sews, cuts, glues, paints and films, combining art and craft, kitsch and media images, unmasking appearance and reality and creating an image that seems to express joy of life but at the same time points to its rigid, narrow conventions.
Her performance ‘Cutout Monkey’ at Vienna’s Karlsplatz, where she wore a gorilla costume and addressed the difficult financial situation of artists, especially women, caused quite a stir earlier this year.