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Culture

Vienna in New York

The prettiest pictures of a legenday era are now on show at New York's first new gallery this year - the Neue Galerie, a museum dedicated to German and Austrian 20th century art.

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Just off the Museum Mile - the Neue Galerie New York

The days when German shops, cafes and restaurants in New York’s once famous Yorkville district flourished are over. The the only remaining icon of the turn-of-the-century era is Schaller and Weber, a German meat shop.

Until now.

With the opening of the Neue Galerie New York, both visitors and native New Yorkers can once again enjoy sights and smells of the old country.

The two-story gallery houses German and Austrian art, which visitors can contemplate with the taste of sweet apple Strudel on their tongues from the gallery's Viennese cafe.

On display are the works of some of the most well-known German artists. Pieces by Paul Klee, Vasily Kadinsky, August Macke and Franz Marc bear witness to a legendary era in German art.

As Brücke leads to Bauhaus, the display shows exhibits by Lyonel Feininger, Mies van der Rohe and Oskar Schlemmer. The second floor of the tall, distinguished building on the corner of New York’s Fifth Avenue, is dedicated to art from 1900 Vienna. The Austrian exhibition includes both the fine, and the decorative arts by artists such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Otto Wagner.

The museum is the first gallery to have opened after September 11 in an area known as the Museum Mile. The building, commissioned by industrialist William Starr Miller was erected in 1914. It served as home to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research before being bought by art collectors Ronald Lauder and Serge Sabarsky, the founders of the Neue Galerie, in 1994.

The two men shared a passionate commitment to German and Austrian art of the 20th century and a dream to showcase the finest examples of this period. After dealer and museum exhibition organisor Serge Sabarsky died in 1996, his close friend, art collector Ronald Lauder fulfilled their vision by opening a museum committed to their dream.

Lauder dedicated one special part of the building to his close companion: the Cafe´Sabarsky. As cafe´s played a prominent role in the intellectual and cultural life of Vienna at the turn of the century, so the cafe at the Neue Galerie with its dark, wood panelled rooms and Austrian delicacies is a reminder of the days when artists, philosophers and intellectuals contemplated the cultural world with the help of Wiener Melange and Linzertorte.

The creators of New York’s Neue Galerie named their museum in German – a reflection of the museum’s roots in Twentieth century Austria and Germany. The museum was inspired by the famous Neue Galerie in Vienna, founded in 1923 by Otto Kallir. According to Reneé Price, the Neue Galerie’s director "Our institution reflects a dual commitment: an embrace of the city in which we are located and a focus on the culture upon which our exhibitions and collections are based."

The museum, both with its art works and the cafe´, bring back a touch of nostalgia of a bygone era in the cities Austria, Germany and New York. But the works of art on show also reflect the excitement of the period before and at the beginning of Germany's Nazi era. Of the paintings on show, the last was painted in 1938.

The museum also provides a different European flavor to a city well-known for its multitude of French art exhibitions.

And the Neue Galerie's collection is still growing. In May, Lauder bought a work by Max Beckmann for a record $22.5 million. Additional acquistions have meant the Galerie’s collection doesn’t fit the building’s 200 square metre sized display room.

Lauder is planning on solving that problem by lending exhibits the public has never seen to museums all over the world.

So works of art, created by German artists driven from their home country by the Nazi regime, may soon be seen in Germany for the first time.