Sobotka, a grand piano and a curator

In the freshly renovated parliament, the art and culture program is to be “expanded both spatially and in terms of content”, the parliamentary correspondence announced on July 1st. In the same statement, it was announced that museum director Wipplinger had been “appointed” as “parliament curator”.

The post of curator was not advertised, reported the “Standard”. According to the newspaper, Wipplinger’s annual fee is 40,000 euros. In the role of project manager is Wipplinger’s partner, the art historian Susanne Längle. Wipplinger told the “Standard” that he saw no problem with it, especially since he could rely “one hundred percent” on Längle and they mainly worked on it together at the weekends.

Tender not required by law

At Wipplinger’s suggestion, several Austrian artists were invited to present projects for the renovated building on the Ring, the parliamentary correspondence reported in July. They should “go into the architectural pictorial program of Theophil Hansen’s historic parliament building and deal with the history and canon of values ​​of democratic structures,” it said.

Leopold Museum Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger

IMAGO/SEPA.Media/Martin Juen

Museum director Wipplinger: The circumstances of his appointment as art curator of the parliament are causing a stir

The projected total costs were given as EUR 1.8 million. That corresponds to almost 0.5 percent of the total volume of the renovation, as the parliamentary correspondence wrote at the time. In public building projects, a certain percentage is earmarked for art, “one or two percent of the total costs correspond to international practice,” the parliamentary directors also told the “Standard”. At EUR 1.8 million, it is well below that, it said, with reference to the total costs of the renovation, which amount to EUR 423 million.

A spokesman for Sobotka pointed out in an interview with ORF.at that there was no legal provision for the post to be advertised. Wipplinger also curated exhibitions in Parliament in 2014 and 2015. At that time, the President of the National Council was Doris Bures (SPÖ), who is currently the second President of the National Council.

A prestige project as part of the cultural program failed because of the Viennese magistrate. He did not approve the erection of two 13-meter-high sculptures in front of and behind the parliament building, as Sobotka announced in October when answering a parliamentary question.

FPÖ outraged

The FPÖ reacted with outrage to the report. General Secretary Michael Schnedlitz spoke of Sobotka’s “egocentric escapades” in a broadcast: “While Austria is starving and freezing because the ÖVP and the Greens are provoking one crisis after the other, ‘Sun King Sobotka’ prefers to surround himself with pomp and splendor.”

Gold-decorated wing sparks debate

Another purchase caused lively debates in the National Council last week. On the initiative of the President of the National Council, Sobotoka, a Bösendorfer grand piano was purchased, which will in future be in the Parliament’s reception room. The monthly rental costs for the instrument, which is decorated with 23-carat gold, amount to 3,000 euros. When asked by APA, the parliament said that the piano had already been included in the original plans by parliament architect Hansen. He had designed the building in the mid-19th century.

The opposition was not satisfied with the explanation. FPÖ club leader Herbert Kickl saw the purchase as an opportunity to call for new elections, simply because there would be a new President of the National Council afterwards. He spoke literally of a “mad idea” and sneered at the gold-studded wing as an expression of the modesty of politics.

National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka in Parliament

APA/Helmut Fohringer

National Council President Sobotka: There is also controversy about the purchase of a gold-decorated grand piano

SPÖ mandater Christian Drobits compared the rental costs for the wing with people at risk of poverty. The livelihoods of three people with minimum income are worth the same as the expenses for the piano.

NEOS mandatary Nikolaus Scherak listed what the money could also be used for in the interests of Parliament – for example for an expansion of the legal and legislative service or more resources for employees.

Government parties see “cheap polemics”

The ÖVP spoke of “cheap polemics”. MP Bettina Rausch welcomed the fact that the High House is also a place for cultural events. Sobotka designed the conversion with care and foresight. Culture spokeswoman Maria Großbauer even said: “We need a piano in Parliament – definitely.”

Green culture spokeswoman Eva Blimlinger saw it that way too. She said she was “somewhat surprised” at the anti-artistic attitude of the opposition parties when they complained about a piano that was also a work of art. Blimlinger would even like to have a parliamentary orchestra.

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