Irene Andessner

Irene Andessner

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  • Introduction

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Since the Renaissance, salons with the portraits by the “Uomini illustri,” a group of acclaimed male artists, have been a part of the décor in castles and palaces. Ancestral portrait galleries were maintained as a matter of congeniality allowing these masters to illustrate their creativity. The Venetian Café Florian beneath the St. Mark’s Place Arcades, where Lord Byron, Goethe, Proust and Stravinsky drank their espresso and, as legend has it, where the idea for an art biennial arose in 1895, affords such illustrious company. From Marco Polo to Titian to Goldono, they have gathered ten heroes from the thousand-year history of the Laguna Republic. Irene Andessner, born in Salzburg in 1954, has temporarily replaced the ten men with ten famous Venetian women. The photographer, dressed in the respective period styles, portrays herself as such celebrities like the portraitist Rosalba Carriera, the composer Barbara Strozzi, the courtesan Veronica Franco or Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in history to obtain a doctorate. The female celebrities in Andessner’s photographs are empathized with the revered men in appearance and attitude so that their interchangeability becomes more evident, making the traditional constraints of the male sex more questionable. In addition to her bust portraits, Irene Andessner takes full body portraits, showing the caged-in environment, which, through the accumulation of obscure objects, becomes a cabinet of curiosities where these self-confident women can assert their superiority. The “Donne illustri” are subtle transferences to the present from age-old epochs. Without negating the past, they are a direct and unobtrusive scrutiny of socially fortified gender roles and are a surprisingly lively piece of Venice. Exhibited at the 2003 Biennial in Café Florian, they are now available to everyone who wants to create their own ancestral portrait gallery.

Dr. Boris von Brauchitsch

1954Born in Salzburg, Austria
1978/ 79Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Venice (Emilio Vedova)
1979-85Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna (Max Weiler, Arnulf Rainer)
1982/ 83Working scholarship in Rome
1989-2000Studio in Cologne
Lives and works in Vienna


Following her studies at the Kunstakademie in Vienna (with Max Weiler and Arnulf Rainer) and in Venice (Emilio Vedova), and a scholarship year in Rome (1982), the Salzburg-born Irene Andessner has increasingly concentrated on the self-portrait theme. Taking off from gestural painting in the spirit of the “Jungen Wilden” she soon linked classical painting techniques (oil on canvas) with self-portraits which can be conceptually read as “date pictures”. Since the mid-90s she has translated her concepts into the techniques of photography and video. Self-staging through role-play has taken the place of the painted self-portrait. “After-images” of art-historical and time-historical examples such as Sofonisba Anguissola or Constanze Mozart are emerging, as well as sacred (Black Madonna) and fictional (Rachel from “Blade Runner”) individuals and modern myths (Marlene Dietrich). In the “I.M.Dietrich” project the role identification goes so far as the assumption of the exemplar’s family name through a real marriage. As “Wanda” she reproduces Leopold of Sacher-Masoch’s ideal image of woman. For the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthday, which will be celebrated in 2006, she will be re-enacting roles of performers who have played Mozart since the silent movie era. Irene Andessner is an artist who has advanced the self-portrait genre in an original way. For the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk her pictures serve as an illustrative example of his definition of “DÈtrait”, with which he indicates a standpoint opposite to that of the portrait: namely, the disintegration and thereby the interchangeability of the artistic representation of personality. “The face is only mine by chance,” said Andessner in an interview in 1994 about a series of self-portraits whose tension results from the way the self-depictions vary. Handed down, remembered, imagined, idealised, self “perceived” images… the image of the woman to whom she lends her changeable face “is always a fiction – in the eyes of the beholder as much as of society” (Andessner). Not “I was” but “I am” (as she calls her production team) is the artist’s motto. A credo through which she herself gives absolutely contemporary expression to historical figures. And offers an art which counterpoints the contemporary.

Books/Catalogs (Selection)

“Irene Andessner”, Interview by Marion Hövelmeyer, in the exhibition catalogue “für sie(h)”, Galerie im Turm, Kulturzentrum Schlachthof, Bremen, 1995
“Irene Andessner – Frauen zu Salzburg”, texts by Wolfram Morath, Peter Laub, Alfred Zellinger; edited Carolino Augusteum, Salzburg 1999
“Hotelsoli – Frauen zu Salzburg”, texts by Klaus Honnef, Peter Watzl; edited Helga Rabl-Stadler, Salzburg, catalogue, 1999
“Irene Andessner”, Micky Kwella, catalogue “Podewil Artists-in residence”, Berlin, 2000/2001
“Donne Illustri – Irene Andessner”, catalogue, edited Stefano Stipitivich, Caffè Florian, Venice, 2003
“Meine Lebensbeichte”, Wanda Sacher-Masoch, artist book edition with illustrations from Irene Andessner’s “Wanda SM” production and dossier, Belleville Verlag, Munich, 2003
“I am Irene Andessner”, book edited Raimund Kast, Stadthaus Ulm; with texts from Raimund Kast, Peter Sloterdijk, Gerald Matt, Michaela Knapp, Peter Fabian; Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart, 2003

Essays/Articles (Selection)

“Ren C. Andessner”, Klaus Honnef, edited Ferdinand Maier, Galerie Zeitkunst, Kitzbühel, catalogue, 1991
“Porträts von Irene Andessner”, Enno Stahl, Apex No. 18, 1993
“Die Überwindung der Nähe”, Ulrike Jagla-Blankenburg, KunstZeit 2/1997
“Irene Andessner – Vorbilder”, texts by Peter Baum, Peter Watzl; Neue Galerie der Stadt Linz, catalogue with CD-ROM, 1998
“Austrian Spotlight”, pp. 14/15, Artothek Wien 1998
“Sphären – Mikrosphärologie”, vol. 1 (pp. 194ff), Peter Sloterdijk, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1998
“Voorbij de schone schijn”, Filip Luyckx, Sint-Lukasgalerij, Brussels, 4/1999
“Light Boxes – Leuchtkastenkunst” (pp. 27, 40, 77, 79, 83, 84, 122, 123, 150), Stephan Trescher, Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 1999
“Irene Andessner: Im Badehaus”, edited Werner Wolf, Museum der Wahrnehmung, Folder 1999
“Majestät, Mätresse und immer sie selbst”, Gunder Clauss, Art 2/2000
“CYBERFACE...REN”, edited Dr. Klaus Wölfer, Österreichisches Kulturinstitut Rom, Folder 2000
“Irene Andessner – Cyberface “Ohne Spiegel leben – Sichtbarkeiten und posthumane Menschenbilder”, pp. 191 ff, Andreas Leo Findeisen, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 2000
“Die Vielen Gesichter der Irene Andessner”, Werner Horvath, Kunststücke, feature 20 min, ORF 2000
“New Austrian Spotlight”, p. 1, Artothek Wien 2000
“Milch vom ultrablauen Strom – Strategien österreichischer Künstler 1960–2000”, pp. 97 ff, edited Wolfgang Denk, Kunsthalle Krems, 2000
“Photographie – die Sammlung”, p. 22, edited Peter Baum, Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, 2000/2001
“Irene Andessner”, Micky Kwella, catalogue “Podewil Artists-in residence”, Berlin, 2000/2001
“Die ephemere Figur”, pp. 32/33, Exhibition Gallery of Provisonal, Municipal Council of Macau (VRC), 2001
“M. heiratet Dietrich”, Ulla Rogalski, Handelsblatt/Galerie, 28.12.2001
“I.M. Dietrich”, Werner Horvath, Treffpunkt Kultur, feature 8’40 min, ORF 2001
“Von Kopf bis Fuß auf Dietrich eingestellt”, Gunder Clauss, Art 2/2002
“Irene Andessner”, Interview Alexander Pühringer, Frame Jan-Mar 2002
“Marlene Dietriech und Venus im Pelz: Frau inszeniert sich als Vorzeigefrau”, Hans Haider, Die Presse 23.9.2002
“Irene Andessner – Wanda SM”, by Peter Fabian, Link06/Graz 2003, Dec. 2002
“Objekte der Begierde”, by Reinhold Reiterer, Bühne, April 2003
“Kunst der Erniedrigung”, Feature/Interview by Wolfgang Wildner, Monat, April 2003
“Dieci veneziane nel volto della Andessner”, Corriere della Sera/Cultura, 08.04.03
“Gelangweilte Herrin der Peitsche im Pelz”, by Colette M. Schmidt, Der Standard/Kultur, Wien, 26.04.2003
“Graz: Kunst des Masochismus”, by Kia Vahland, Art Kunstmagazin, Hamburg, May 2003
“Im Angesicht der Ewigkeit”, by Michaela Knapp, The Gap, Mai 2003
“Extra-Tipp: Irene Andessner Projekt Donne Illustri”, by Walter M. Weiß, Art Kunstmagazin, Hamburg, Juni 2003
“Irene Andessner”, cover-story by Inge Nevole, Eikon No. 42, Vienna, 2003
“Irene Andessner – Wanda SM”, project teaser at the Graz03 opening, 3sat/ORF, 11.01.2003, 3:15 min
“Phantom der Lust”, ORF2-Treffpunkt Kultur, W. Beyer / W. Horvath, 28.04.2003, 3:40 min
“50. Biennale Arte” incl. “Moderata Fonte“, Biennale-Venice report by Enzo di Martino, Il Gazzettino, 12.06.2003
“Donne Illustri” incl. Biennale-Venice report by Michael Stefanowski, ZDF-Aspekte, 13.06.2003, 40 sec
„Donne Illustri“, Biennale-Venice report by Ines Mitterer, ORF2-Treffpunkt Kultur, 16.06.2003, 25 sec
“Biennale – Eine Stadt voll Kunst” incl. “Moderata Fonte“, Biennale-Venice report by Erwin Melchart in Kronenzeitung, Vienna, 17.06.2003
“Erfrischender Kunstschlaf” incl. “Moderata Fonte“ Biennale-Venice report by Elisabeth Rath, Salzburger Nachrichten, 23.06.2003
“Irene Andessner”, Artist’s portrait by Sabine Willkop, SWR-Nachtkultur, 27.06.2003, 6 min
“Glamourgirl aus dem Mittelalter” incl. “Venezianische Sultanin” and “I.M. Dietrich”, Der Spiegel, Hamburg, 30.06.2003
“Ecco la Sala delle Donne Illustri” incl. “Moderata Fonte”, “Caterina Cornaro”, “Elisabetta Querini Valier”, Giorno & Notte, Venedig, 04.07.2003
“Die schöne Ulmerin aus Salzburg”, by Helmut Pusch, Südwest-Presse, Ulm, 05.07.2003
“Kunstfigur im Double – Irene Andessner im Stadthaus”, by Roland Mayer, Neu-Ulmer Zeitung, 05.07.2003
“Die unglaublichen Verwandlungen der Irene Andessner”, by Burkhard Meier-Grolman, Schwäbische Zeitung, Ulm, 09.07.2003
“Irene Andessner”, Artist’s portrait by Regina Roland, Deutsche Welle Television, 2003, 5 min
“I am Irene Andessner”, book featuring by Werner Horvath, ORF2-Kulturtipp, 21.07.2003, 2:10 min
“Irene Andessner – Me, myself and I”, Interview by Sandra Prill, Woman, Hamburg, July 2003
“Irene Andessner”, Artist’s portrait by Regina Roland, Deutsche Welle/TV-Kulturgalerie, 09.08.2003, 4:50 min
“Steirischer Herbst” incl. a Andessner-Interview (conc. the WSM-Project) by Herbert A. Gornik, Deutschland-Radio Berlin, 29.10.2003
“Künstlerinnen nach 1945”/Kunsthalle Krems, incl. Andessner’s contribution, ORF/Zeit im Bild 2, 04.10.2003


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