The Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz, founded in 2003 in the Upper Austrian regional capital, is closely tied to its home city: the name Lentos, coming from the celtic and meaning ‘close by the river’, was the linguistic predecessor to the city’s name ‘Lentia’ during Roman times. The museum’s location by the Danube, housed in a modern building designed by Zurich architects Weber+Hofer, faces and mirrors the city’s Ars Electronica Centre (AEC), a museum dedicated to the electronic arts, on the other side of the river. Together, the Lentos and the AEC buildings have not only served to transform Linz’s industrial riverside into a location of culture, they also visually shift attention away from the Nibelungen bridge connecting the city core to the suburb Urfahr and the Upper Austrian North, leading on to the Czech Republic. Built between 1938 and 1940, the bridge was part of a large national socialist redevelopment project, building on plans Adolf Hitler had first sketched out in the mid-1920s. Today, the Nibelungen bridge still counts as one of the main connectors between Linz and northern Upper Austria – serving as an uneasy reminder of the country’s national socialist past, which the Lentos is now confronting head-on.
To commemorate the centenary of the First Austrian Republic in 2018, the Upper Austrian regional gallery in Linz presented a cross-section of stylistic developments and institutional frameworks of fine arts produced in Upper Austria between the two World Wars. The exhibition was part of the historical exhibition Between War Times: Upper Austria from 1918 to 1939 at the Linz Palace Museum, which runs through to January 2019 with a focus on the federal state’s position in an Austria that suffered deeply from social and political upheavals in the 1920s and 30s, and was annexed to the Third Reich in March 1938. With these historical complexities discussed elsewhere, the exhibition in the gallery focused its efforts on painting, photography and the graphic arts of the region, paying no more than faint attention to socio-political developments.