I don’t like modern art. But I walked and cycled the streets of Salzburg for years on my tours and got used to the many strange statues. They grew on me and I am now a fan. Not for the sake of modern art, but because of Salzburg and because the Salzburg Foundations art has become a part of the city.
The Salzburg Foundation began in 2002 to place modern art in public spaces. Their walk of modern art was a private initiative that so far features 13 pieces of art by various artists. The Salzburg Foundations Goal is to break the boundaries of the museum and bring art to the people instead of the people to the art.
This noble goal and the fact that the Walk of Modern Art leads you to many must-see sights of Salzburg made me want to introduce it to you. For those of you who found this article because they are genuine lovers of modern art, there will be many more options at the end of this article.
The Walk of Modern Art
With this article, I want to provide an alternative sightseeing plan rather than just a guide to modern art. Therefore, the order in which I present the Salzburg Foundations art makes sense to follow for a tour of the old town of Salzburg. It’s presented in context with its surroundings. Here are the Google Maps and Google Earth maps.
Next to every modern artwork by the Salzburg Foundation you will find a red sign that gives information about the artwork.
The Spirit of Mozart
The Spirit of Mozart is where everything in Salzburg starts. You know why? Because that’s the meeting point for the free walking tours. It’s not that I like the artwork so much, let alone the artist. But I like the chairs as a meeting point, even if they are usually full of bird droppings and unusable as seating.
Furthermore, is the location right next to the main bridge is the most central location to start exploring Salzburg. The view of the fortress, the river, and the city mountain offers a glimpse of understanding at the beginning of the tours.
Marina Abramovic, a Serbian performance artist, is famous because of her YouTube videos. One of them where she sat in front of strangers at the MoMa in New York for three months for 8 hours every day.
Another piece of art is right where you stand. Beyond Recall are the four cubes. One in each of the corners of Staatsbrücke, the main bridge connecting both sides of the river. In each of the cubes, there are neon light letters and mirrors reflecting the lights inside and outside of the cubes. They are also great for creative photography.
Where Staatsbrücke, the main bridge was, there always a bridge. Before regulating the river in the second half of the 19th century, this was the most narrow point. They, however, had to rebuild the bridge eight times. The last time during the second world war because the Nazis needed a more solid bridge for their warmongering. During the second world war forced laborers constructed the bridge. As you can imagine, this was dangerous work, and many died.
When the bridge reopened four years after the war, in 1949 no one mentioned the forced labor involved in building it. Brigitte Kowanz installed Beyond Recall in 2007 during a Restauration as an effort to remember the victims of the Nazi regime.
Brigitte Kowanz is an Austrian artist who lives and works in Vienna. Her focus is on the exploration of space and light. She teaches at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.
When you cross the street from the main bridge to Linzergasse and turn left after the first building, you reach Makartplatz. Here you find another modern sculpture surrounded by Mozart’s Residence, the Trinity church, and the state theater. You find the so-called Caldera in the middle of the small park.
The term Caldera comes from geology, It refers to a volcano crater. Like with many of the modern art pieces we don’t exactly know what the five-meter high bronze sculpture represents represent. Everyone has a different interpretation. Some think it’s Mozart’s wig here in front of the residence, others believe it’s two people kissing. I think it’s a tooth.
Tony Cragg, the British artists of the Caldera chose Makartplatz for the purposeless sculpture because expedient traffic otherwise dominates the square. Moreover, Cragg compares the geography of Salzburg with its two city mountains to the volcanic crater.
In spring the sculpture is surrounded by the Magnolia blossom and crowds of Magnolia photographing people. The rest of the summer few spend their time on Makartplatz because it’s a place of passage.
Tony Cragg is one of the world’s leading sculptors. He experiments with unconventional material. In the case of Caldera with bronze and most of his sculptures are similarly abstract.
If you haven’t yet, take a quick look at Mirabell gardens before crossing the river.
Hommage to Mozart
After crossing the river over the Makartsteg bridge, you go downstream until you reach the white church on the left side. In front of the Ursuline- or Mark’s church, you find a rather bizarre Hommage to Mozart. A naked female body with a cartoon of Mozart’s head. You only recognize Mozart by his wig.
The surface of the statue seems unfinished. One arm of the statue even seems to have fallen off, but that’s intentional. What’s not intentional is the fact that the statue is plain grey. Here comes an interesting story.
This depiction of Mozart was not well received by many. After its inauguration, Martin Humer, a Christian, political activist, even vandalized it. He tarred and feathered the statue. After cleaning the statue it lost all of its paint. Therefore, it’s plain grey now.
Markus Lüpertz, the artist, however, didn’t mind the vandalism. The rumors about the inappropriate statue and the act of vandalism surrounding the modern art piece made it even more famous. Lüpertz is a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, writer, and musician and one of the best-known German contemporary artists.
Visit the Ursuline church, if it’s open. It’s one of Fischer von Erlachs churches and I would anyway always recommend visiting churches in Salzburg.
From the strange Mozart, you follow Gstättengasse along the side of the mountain and into the old town. At the end of Gstättengasse, there will be an elevator inside the mountain. That elevator takes you straight into the lion’s den. Straight into the museum of modern art.
The ride costs a few bucks but for the view, it’s worth it. If you have a Salzburg card it includes the elevator and the museum. If you don’t have a Salzburg card and are not a lover of modern art, skip the museum and only pay for the elevator! If you don’t want to pay you can also hike the mountain from Mülln or skip the view, the Sky Space and the next artwork.
Leave the museum building to the right. After going up the few steps and admiring the view, you can find James Turrell’s Sky Space. It’s a building in the shape of a cylinder. If you visit during the day, you can walk in. There is a hole in the ceiling so you can look at the sky.
Inside, benches surround the walls of the round building. You can sit down. Sky Space is supposed to give you an excerpt from the sky and the changing colors of the light.
James Turrell is an American artist from California, focused on light and space. The Salzburg Sky Space is not the only one. Turrell established similar constructions all over the world. Some of them much more sophisticated and actually meant to observe space.
Ziffern im Wald
Ziffern im Wald, meaning Number is the Forest, is on the other side of the museum. It’s not a must, and maybe the most random of all the modern art by the Salzburg Foundation. If you would like to see it anyway, pass the front of the museum and head up the two sets of stairs and past the Amelia Redlich tower next to the museum.
That’s where you find the Igloo shaped construction. Ziffern im Wald was the second piece of art put into public space by the Salzburg Foundation. It comprises twelve iron pipes forming the Igloo and 21 numbers illuminated day and night by neon light. The 21 numbers depict the Fibonacci digits. The Fibonacci digits are infinite.
What the artist wants to represent with the numbers is the infinite growth of leaves in the forest.
Mario Merz, just like so many artists who contributed to the Salzburg Foundation, had his special theme. Igloos and numbers. Unfortunately, the Igloo in Salzburg was his last piece of art. He died shortly after his work in Salzburg was finished in 2003.
Mönchsberg, the mountains you are on, is a fantastic place to hike. If you would like to, you could skip the elevator and just climb the mountain in Mülln to walk along. It doesn’t take long.
The pickles are one of the most famous pieces of modern art by the Salzburg Foundation. Nowadays you even find souvenirs that represent the Gherkins. You could say they went viral. Tourists took selfies with them, and so they spread on social media and became one of the images of Salzburg.