Set your sights higher
Entry is free and it is always open: welcome to the Museum of Looking Up.
Magdalena Hiller has always had a soft spot for that ‘strange 1950s aesthetic’, as she calls it.
Together with her good friend Gabriel Roland she launched the ‘Raufschaumuseum’ (Museum of Looking Up) on Instagram in spring 2020. The account presents pictures and photos of artworks, mosaics and sgraffiti on buildings that were created between 1919 and 1989 in Vienna, in Austria and around the world – and quite a few of them are found on the facades of social housing estates in Vienna. The account enjoys great popularity and its growing community of followers keeps sending more pictures which are then shared in Insta stories and posts.
For years, the two curators had been sending each other pictures of mosaics on the phone. Launching the website and the Instagram account seemed like the logical next step. The goal of the virtual museum is to promote the appreciation of art on buildings and, thus, to prevent the destruction of beautiful facades, for example during construction works.
The façade of Maria Franc Hof, a housing estate on the corner of Lange Gasse and Zeltgasse in the 8th district, features ‘The three owls’, a mosaic by Josef Seger. It is a popular sight, says Gabriel Roland: ‘People often send us these owls – because a) they are easily accessible and b) they really are quite sweet. It’s not the most complex piece of art ever made, but it does tell us a lot about 1950s and 1960s Vienna.’
From Zeltgasse it is just a short walk to the next housing estate on Neudeggergasse 12, where Josef Tschofenig’s 1955-56 marble inlay ‘Butterflies’ adorns the entrance. ‘I wouldn’t have guessed they are butterflies,’ says Magdalena Hiller. ‘It has been difficult to find out more about the artist because he had the same name as a communist and anti-Nazi resistance fighter in Carinthia. Moreover, this seems to be his only work on a building in Vienna.’
Content for the museum’s account can be found on every corner – not only in Vienna. Last summer, many contributions came from other parts of the country as a large part of the community spent their holidays in Austria. ‘Generally, people tend to prefer the figurative – that becomes pretty obvious when you count the likes,’ explains Gabriel Roland.
The two museum founders praise their community, especially their dedicated fans. ‘There’s Anna who even gets off the train early to take a picture of something she just saw from the window. And Marion drives around the entire city in her car to find new sites.’
Setting their photographic sights higher is one of the things that the two museums founders and their fans share, says Gabriel Roland: ‘It starts conversations. Someone might ask you: What are you doing? And you say: Well, I’m taking a picture of that work of art, isn’t it great? And quite often the reply will be: Yes it is, I hadn’t even noticed that up to now. And that’s another wonderful thing about it.’