Art gallery by day – bondage club by night

Project linking museum with its taboo-breaking past angers conservative Austria

A venerated Vienna museum has provoked a furious political row after opening a swinging, bondage and S&M club on its premises in an attempt to encourage debate about the role of scandal in art.

The club is housed in the basement of the Secession museum, the home of Austria's once taboo- breaking Jugendstil art movement. Elsewhere there are works by such august names as Gustav Klimt; below ground, though, visitors may be surprised to find a space equipped with bondage equipment, leather sofas, pornographic paintings, curtained niches, mirrors, and even a gynaecologist's examination chair.

Men and women clad in a variety of leather and latex costumes, high heels and corsets were the paying guests at the club on its opening night. "We want to give as many people as possible the chance to overcome their inhibitions," insisted the manager, Michael Högler.

The club opens its doors nightly at 9pm to paying guests aged over 18. Video footage of the activities inside showed a middle-aged woman in a leather vest being elaborately tied up by a burly man with a piece of coarse rope. Her deadpan expression suggested she wasn't particularly enjoying the experience.

The project is the work of the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel, who has a reputation for staging provocative stunts. He claims the club aims to link the present with the scandal that erupted at the turn of the 20th century, when taboo-breaking erotic works by Jugendstil painters such as Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka were first shown to the public.

However, Büchel's views are not shared by what appears to be a majority of Austria's politicians and public figures. The far-right Freedom Party has been the most vociferous in its criticism. "Group sex in the Secession – has our society gone mad?" asked Heinz-Christian Strache, the party's leader.

Gerald Ebinger, Vienna's cultural spokesman, was equally vitriolic: "Gang-bang parties and dominatrix chambers have absolutely nothing to do with art and culture," he insisted. Ursula Stenzel, one of the city's chief councillors, complained that she had been tricked into allowing the project to go ahead: "It was supposed to be an arts project with a nightclub – there was never any talk about a swinger club. I have been grossly misled," she said.

The museum says that the swinger club draws a deliberate parallel to the controversy that erupted in 1902 when Klimt's famous erotic painting Beethoven Frieze was first exhibited. The painting, which is the centrepiece of the Secession's current exhibition, shows three virtually naked women covered only by their long tresses of hair. The work was widely dismissed as obscene when it was first unveiled.

The Secession has leapt to the defence of its club project. "Provocation is part of art, you cannot just write it off as being dirty," said Sylvie Liska, the president of the Secession's Friends Association.

Yesterday, Büchel appeared to have almost totally succeeded in his aim to rekindle scandal in art – even in his native Switzerland. Outraged politicians from the country's far-right Swiss People's Party were demanding "radical cutbacks" in funding for the country's Pro-Helvetia arts body after it emerged that it had subsidised Büchel's Vienna project to the tune of €10,000 (£8,900).

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?