When it comes to German speaking countries, Berlin and Vienna are the two most important cities regarding art and culture. Since both Forward festivals of this year were taking place in these cities, its worth looking into how they became so important – and relevant until this day.


Pictured above, you see the Wiener Werkstätte inspired store design of Vienna’s Applestore when it opened in 2018. Next to it, an installation view of Tobias-Rehberger’s work “Du bist schick ich muss schuften” at Berlin’s Boros Collection. The two images are symbolic of the influence the art-movements which emerged in both cities over a century ago, still have.



It were the revolutionary minds of their time (like Lionel Feiniger, who drew the cover of the Bauhaus Manifesto, pictured above) who wanted to break free from outdated norms and concepts of creativity and thus paved the way for generations of artists, designers, illustrators and architects to come. Always intertwined and connected to various art forms – Berlin especially to the movie scene, Vienna especially the dance and architecture scene – both cities have a long history of collaborating and enriching the various creative fields.



Of course, when you think of art in Vienna, you cannot not think of Klimt and Schiele, the two artists that massively impact the cultural landscape – still today. When the artists around Klimt wanted to escape the restricting traditional idea of art, they founded the secession. They were able to bring their vision to life in a building designed by architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, who was working at Otto Wagner’s Atelier at the time. Berlin’s Secession was founded in 1898 by more than 60 artists, among them Max Liebermann and Dora Hitz. The works which were created by the artist collective would in future be referred to as “Berlin Impressionism”, heavily influencing the German art history.



Another important trend during the early 20th century  was the fusion of art and craftsmanship,  between art and design. In Vienna, this resulted in the founding of the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and their patron, Fritz Waerndorfer. Here, artists working with a variety of materials, from ceramic, glass, wood and steel collectively created pieces for everyday life. Augarten Porcellan for instance is still producing designs from the Wiener Werkstätte. The craftsmanship developed during the early 1900s still lives on.



In Berlin, 1919 Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar with a similar idea- one of the most influential institutions for for architecture, design and art. Due to political implications, it was forced to move location three times during it’s short existence of only 14 years: from Weimar to Berlin to Dessau. However, it’s impact – and the impact of the three directors Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – lives on until today. The idea to create a transdisciplinary vision of the future came into fruition.



Berlin has become one of the most important spots on the earth when it comes to contemporary art. With an unbelievable total of 284 art galleries, and four art schools, the city is a significant location for young artists to pursue their careers. Education-wise, Vienna has an equivalent of two art institutions: the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Applied Arts. The next generation of artists and designers are naturally drawn to the two cities.
During the early 2010s, when the startup scene started booming, Berlin became even more attractive for creatives since the need for user experience design, user interface design, graphic design and product design, and created new job opportunities for designers. The trend is ongoing, with a whopping 500 startups being created each year.



In summary, the cultural and artistic richness of both cities which date back to the 19th century do not make you wonder why they are still the most relevant locations for creatives in the German speaking countries. And it is noteworthy, that it are always the revolutionaries, the minds who dare to dream against the current, who leave a lasting impression.


Image Credits:

1 © apple, Boros Collection
2 © MoMa
3 © bpk / Kunstbibliothek, SMB, Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer
4 © MAK, Wiener Werstätte, Augarten
5 © Oskar Schlemmer(1888–1943)
6 © Boros Collection
7 © Rixdorf Editions