Herbert Boeckl, The Great Theater of the World

A Portrait of Austria

A Portrait of Austria

A Portrait of Austria

Herbert Boeckl submitted his variation on Calderon’s “The Great Theater of the World” to the competition for the fire curtain for the reopening of the Vienna State Opera in 1955. After the war and the occupation period, this project became a central symbol of Austria’s new identity. Boeckl, who went on to become a major influence on the next generation of artists, depicted Austria as overcoming the devastation wrought by the war and opening up towards a new start at the international level. Calderon’s play is transformed into a surreal show. In place of the creator who choreographs world events, a harlequin puppet takes the stage, wearing red, white, and red striped pants and summoning curious hybrid creatures. That was too much for the jury. It gave the nod to Rudolf Hermann Eisenmenger who, admired by Adolf Hitler, served as president of Vienna’s Künstlerhaus during the war years 1939—1945.

Boeckl’s work is on display at the at the Forum Frohner as part of the exhibition „Rot ich weiß Rot. Kritische Kunst für Österreich,“ which runs from May 12 through November 6, 2016.

Herbert Boeckl, The Great Theater of the World, 1955
© State of Lower Austria, Lower Austrian State Collections
Photo: Peter Böttcher

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