Geymüllerschlössel, Branch of Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria

The Geymüllerschlössel is a small palace situated in Pötzleinsdorf, a neighborhood in Vienna’s suburban outskirts. It is a branch of the Museum of Applied Arts and Contemporary Art, displaying a diverse collection of furniture and decorative art from the Biedermeier period as well as Franz Sobek’s clock collection.

At the Geymüllerschlössel, a jewel of Biedermeier architecture in Vienna’s Pötzleinsdorf neighborhood, the MAK shows furniture from the Empire and Biedermeier periods, old Viennese clocks from the collection of Franz Sobek, and interventions by contemporary artists and designers.

The Geymüllerschlössel in Pötzleinsdorf, a neighborhood in Vienna’s suburban outskirts, was put up after 1808 as a “summer building” for the Viennese merchant and banker Johann Jakob Geymüller (1760–1834). Geymüllerschlössel is furnished with original furniture from the first half of the 19th century. Its architectural style features the blend of Gothic, Indian and Arab elements typical especially of pleasure palaces at the time.

Today, it is one of the few places in Austria offering an authentically original look at the diversity of Biedermeier decorative art.

The Geymüller lock is named after the builder Johann Jakob Geymüller (1760–1834), brother of the landlord and owner of the Pötzleinsdorfer Schloss Johann Heinrich Geymüller (1754–1824). The “pleasure building”, erected in 1808 by an architect who is not well known, shows a mixture of Gothic and Oriental style elements in accordance with the time. The property later passed into various hands, including that of Johann Heinrich von Falkner-Geymüller, who squandered his fortune and who, according to a (disputed) view, is said to have given the model for Ferdinand Raimund’s “squanderer” (hence the popular term “squanderer” -Villa”).

The estate was passed between a number of different owners before coming into the possession of the Museum of Applied Arts and Contemporary Art (MAK) in the 1960s. Isidor Mautner, a textile industrialist, bought the palace in 1888 and mortgaged it to the Austrian National bank in the late 1920s. After the annexation of Austria to Nazi-controlled Germany, Mautner’s Jewish heir. were forced to flee the country in 1938, resulting in the mortgage on the estate being transferred to Germany’s Reichsbank. It was returned to the Austrian National bank after World War II had ended and was later bought by the Republic of Austria in 1948. In the following years, the villa’s renovation was overseen by Franz Sobek, who had provided the funds for the purchase of the palace.

It was eventually incorporated into the MAK as a museum branch in 1965, when Sobek was bought out of his rights to the property. Taking into possession the Geymüllerschlössel, the MAK also took over Franz Sobek’s collection of Viennese clocks from the 18th and 19th century as well as furniture from the first half of the 19th century.

Past and Present in Dialog
Furnished with original furniture from the first half of the 19th century, the Geymüllerschlössel joins its park, in which contemporary artistic stances are presented, to form an ensemble in which nature and art, as well as historical and contemporary artistic stances, enter into dialog with one another: in 1997, Hubert Schmalix’ sculpture Der Vater weist dem Kind den Weg [The Father Shows the Way to His Child] (1996) was set up in the Geymüllerschlössel’s park, and autumn 2004 saw the permanent addition of the skyspace work The other Horizon (1998/2004) by American artist James Turrell.

In keeping with the MAK’s programmatic emphasis on putting historical artistic heritage in dialog with contemporary artistic movements, from 2012 till 2015 the MAK DESIGN SALON opened up the the villa to present-day design and made space for intertemporal juxtapositions. The intent was to have internationally renowned designers deal here with the transformative era of the early 19th century and the building in its role as a museum location in order to shed light on both stylistic and societal ties to the present day.

In its architectural language, the building itself exhibits a mix of Gothic, Indian, and Arabian stylistic elements that is quite common in buildings from the early 19th century, above all summer residencies. To this day, the name of the architect remains unknown. The estate was purchased in 1888 by textile industrialist Isidor Mautner, who mortgaged it to the Austrian National bank in 1929. When Nazi-controlled Germany annexed Austria in 1938, the heirs of Isidor Mautner (who had passed away in 1930), being Jewish, lost all citizenship rights and were forced to flee persecution by the Nazi regime. The mortgage on the Geymüllerschlössel was transferred to Germany’s Reichsbank, which seized the building as compensation for the outstanding debt in 1944.

After the end of World War II, ownership passed to the Austrian National Bank, which in turn sold the Geymüllerschlössel to the Republic of Austria in 1948. The funds for this purchase were supplied by Franz Sobek, who in return received the lifelong right to live in the villa and supervised the building’s renovation over the years that followed. In 1965, the Republic of Austria bought Sobek out of his rights to the property, and the Geymüllerschlössel was incorporated into the MAK as a museum branch.

Together with the building, Dr. Franz Sobek’s important collection of 160 old-Viennese clocks dating from the period between 1760 and the second half of the 19th century also came into the possession of the MAK, as did furniture made between 1800 and 1840. Complimented by Empire and Biedermeier furniture from the MAK Collection, these clocks number among the most important points of interest at the Geymüllerschlössel.

Renovations carried out during the late 1980s returned the façade and parts of the paintwork on the building’s interior to their original states. Thanks to this and to the subsequent rearrangement of the clocks and furniture among the various rooms, today’s visitors still receive an impression of a wealthy bourgeois summer residence done in the Empire and Biedermeier styles. Careful attention in the refurbishment was given to the textile decorations of the building as well as to the furniture’s upholstery, thanks to which the Geymüllerschlössel is now the only remaining place in Austria that affords an authentic insight into the diversity of ways in which textiles were employed in Biedermeier interior decorating.

Over the past years, the Geymüllerschlössel hosted a number of exhibitions focusing on contemporary design interventions and comparisons, including Time & Again by designer Michael Antassiades, The Stranger Within by Studio Formafantasma, Robert Stadler’s Back in 5 min and Biedermeier reanimated by Clegg & Guttman.

Skyspace The other Horizon
James Turrell’s Skyspace The Other Horizon consists of a walk-in chamber with a roof opening that reveals a diffusely shimmering section of the sky. The most impressive effects are achieved at twilight. Turrell stipulated a precise time frame for visiting the installation, that was created especially for the MAK: from 90 minutes before sundown to nightfall.

Before the visitor’s eye, the Skyspace appears to bridge the distance between heaven and earth, rendering the inner horizon of the chamber congruent with the geographical horizon outside.

„The Skyspaces are, basically, Structural Cuts, that are completely above the horizon line. The openings of all Skyspaces cut through ceiling and roof, though the roof may be slanted. These pieces deal with the juncture of the interior space and the space outside by bringing the space of the sky down to the plane of the ceiling. They create a space that is completely open to the sky, yet seems enclosed. The sense of closure at the juncture appears to be a glassy film stretched across the opening, with an indefinable space beyond this transparencey that changes with sky conditions and sun angles.“ (James Turrell)

The US-American artist James Turrell works with light as his medium, visualizing its material qualities, its delicate physicality, in the form of complex “light spaces.” These are “aesthetic spaces” into which one enters and which—constructed of the interplay of distance, illusion, and perception—caress and envelop both body and vision.

James Turrell’s Skyspace The Other Horizon was opened in the park of the MAK Branch Geymüllerschlössel on 26 November 2004, since when it has been a permanent installation there. It may be visited without charge during the Geymüllerschlössel’s opening hours.

Summer Party
The MAK extends an invitation to a fabulous party in the wonderful Biedermeier castle and its extensive garden in Pötzleindorf. Food trucks with culinary delights from the region await you, as well as a varied program of guided tours and workshops for young and old.

During the day, DJs from Radio Superfly fill the garden with music, and as a special highlight in the evening, Maraskino presents a live performance of the band’s new album.

The MAK branch Geymüllerschlössel in Pötzleinsdorf is today one of the few places in Austria that offer an authentic insight into the rich variety of Biedermeier decorative art. It was commissioned after 1808 by the merchant banker Johann Jakob Geymüller (1760–1834) as a “summer residence.” To this day, the architect is unknown, yet the building displays a combination of Gothic, Indian, and Arabic styles that is typical of pleasure pavilions of that time.

Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
The MAK – Museum of Applied Arts is one of the most important museums of its kind worldwide. Founded as the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry in 1863, today’s museum—with its unique collection of applied arts and as a first-class address for contemporary art—can boast an incomparable identity. Originally established as an exemplary source collection, today’s MAK Collection continues to stand for an extraordinary union of applied art, design, contemporary art and architecture.

The MAK is a museum and laboratory for applied art at the interface of design, architecture and contemporary art. His core competency is dealing with these areas in a contemporary way, in order to create new perspectives based on the tradition of the house and to explore border areas.

The spacious halls of the Permanent Collection in the magnificent Ringstraße building by Heinrich von Ferstel were later redesigned by contemporary artists in order to present selected highlights from the MAK Collection. The MAK DESIGN LAB expands our understanding of design—a term that is traditionally grounded in the 20th and 21st centuries—by including previous centuries, thereby enabling a better evaluation of the concept of design today. In temporary exhibitions, the MAK presents various artistic stances from the fields of applied arts, design, architecture, contemporary art, and new media, with the mutual relationships between them being a consistently emphasized theme.

It is particularly committed to the corresponding recognition and positioning of applied art. The MAK develops new perspectives on its rich collection, which spans different eras, materials and artistic disciplines, and develops them rigorously.