Blog #8: Fragile Creation Through the Spectacles of Art

March 4 2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
YESSS, museums are open again, and YESSS, we are able to enjoy some of the best assets this magnificent town has to offer, including its many many exhibitions. Several of them currently feature creation-related topics, amongst them Fragile Creation/Fragile Schoepfung in the Dom Museum on Stephansplatz, open through late August 2021. There is also Sheila Hicks’s Thread, Trees, River, open until April 18 in the MAK and After Us the Floods in the Kunsthaus Wien/Museum Hundertwasser, extended through April 5.
All three are worth checking out. To get you started, this blog gives you a teaser for the Fragile Creation exhibition in the Dom Museum.
Why Fragile Creation? Philip had recommended that I check it out months ago when we were all still doing museums. Art and creation, I was wondering at the time, should I really go? Is this not just political education in a fancy environment? Would I not be better off to just read a few good articles in Nature or Science instead? I could not have been further from the truth…
When a faith-based museum sets out to curate an exhibition on creation, things do become interesting. The Dom Museum not only introduces visitors to the sadly familiar depiction of nature at peril at the hands of humans (or humans at peril at the hands of nature), but it also shows ample examples of nature-inspired art used in church, ranging from extraordinary depictions of fauna and flora in 15th century through to embroidery, glass art and golden monstrances. Questions crossed my mind: Could we have ever created art without being inspired by creation? And do artists depict creation to honor the creator, with intent or by default? And what does this mean for a future with less nature, or at least less diverse nature?  Are terms such as less or more even relevant for those that create art?

Part of “Eruption of Mount Vesuvius” by Albert Bierstadt (1899)
The other inspiring part of the exhibition is that it extends its view of creation to the human experience, organizing the visitor’s journey in terms of Order of Love, Mind and Nature, Exploitation and Responsibility, Threat and Fascination, and Contemplation and Mise-en-scene. In doing so, it arranges what we tend to think of as church art, such as depictions of Mary and the child, in ways that remind us of the fragility of life, not just planetary life, but also human life, and, of course, Jesus’s life.
It’s a small exhibition with just a few rooms to check out. On first sight, it is seemingly too small, perhaps, for the €8 it will set you back.  But the exhibits are exquisitely chosen and each of them are deserving of time, heart, and thought. There is a beautiful little catalogue available to accompany the exhibit, to read while or after you visit, reflecting further on the relations between humans and nature in art, religion, and society. If anything, it is a great place to learn more about a different take on religions and their ecological responsibility.
The Dom Museum is open daily between 10:00am and 6:00pm.

One of my favourite pictures: "The Animals Boarding Noah’s Ark” (Gen 6:1) by a 16th century artist.