“MUSA Museum Startgalerie Artothek” is the name of the City of Vienna contemporary art collection that is managed by the Cultural Affairs Department of the Vienna City Administration. As an institution, MUSA comprises three facilities: a display area for exhibitions of works from the collection, focusing on specific topics or artists; the Start Gallery, which serves as a launching pad for young local artists at the start of their career; and the Artothek, a stock of graphic artworks available on loan to private individuals. It was opened in June 2007.
MUSA has the largest collection of this kind in Austria. Currently it has a stock of approx. 40,000 artworks by about 4,500 different artists from all fields of art. The City of Vienna Cultural Affairs Department started acquiring works for the collection in 1951 as part of its general policy of promoting local artists. Today the collection provides a comprehensive overview of the development of art in Vienna during the past decades. A jury of recognised experts recommends Viennese artists or artworks related to Vienna for purchase, aiming to attain maximum quality and stylistic variety.
600 m2 of exhibition space and modern storage facilities allow for a first-rate programme in the interest of the local art scene. Based on the standing collection, several exhibitions showcasing the local art scene are held every year. Apart from sociocultural issues like gender roles and political questions, the exhibitions also address phenomenological questions in the field of art. Sizeable donations provide additional opportunity for a focused analysis and public presentation of the works donated. Supplementary events like readings, concerts, lectures and debates also concentrate on current topics. At the same time, MUSA is home to the institution Eyes On – The Vienna Month of Photography, which stages an international exhibition on the current state of photography. Cooperation with international institutions in the form of exhibition exchange or joint project planning also part of the MUSA tasks.
MUSA is located in a City of Vienna office building that was constructed in 1916 as one of the first steel concrete buildings to designs by August Kirstein. Kirstein had been a student of Friedrich von Schmidt, the architect of Vienna City Hall itself. Originally the City of Vienna’s poverty register was kept in the building; in 1921 it was adapted to house the municipal kitchens. A public canteen was operated here until the 1990s.
The central exhibition room is actually the building’s inner courtyard, a 300 m2 space covered by a self-supporting glass ceiling. Modular walls allow for the space to be adjusted flexibly to different purposes like exhibitions and other events.
The widely acclaimed architectural concept is from the team Kiskan Kaufmann Architekten (www.kiskan.com).