Vienna. The world’s most liveable city. The home of Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Mozart, Johann Strauss, Gustav Klimt. The country where croissant, snow globe and PEZ candy were born. The city that has a legit coffee culture and is famed for the sinfully sweet Sacher torte and scrumptious schnitzel. And its unusual museums.
The Globe Museum: The world’s only museum dedicated to globes, the Globe Museum housed in renovated Palais Mollard has 240 different original globes of the earth and the sky, the moon and the planet Mars, majority of them dating before 1850. Not ordinary globes, but unusual globes - folding fabric globes (which were inflated with a bellows), giant man-sized globes, and tiny plum-sized globes. The oldest item in the collection is the terrestrial globe of Dutch cartographer/physician Gemma Frisius (circa 1536). One of the most prized artefacts on display is Vincenzo Coronelli’s two globes specially crafted for Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor (1658-1705), with each globe having an engraved portrait of the Emperor. Museum of Contraception & Abortion: Thank the i-Pill and every other morning after pills, women no longer have to use crocodile dung as barrier (the science being that acid in the croc-poop was not sperm-friendly) and men no longer learn to make sheep gut barriers or order a customised sturgeon (yes, the fish) condom or buy a specific stand to dry the condom before next use. In the two-roomed museum founded by Dr Christian Fiala, the museum narrates the history of birth control and bizarre methods of terminating unwanted pregnancy. In a glass cabinet are knitting needles, thorns, bicycle spokes as abortion tools before abortion was legalised. The Abortion Room also has a Victorian kitchen set-up for a DIY abortion. Undertakers Museum: Talk six feet under. And all its paraphernalia. Housed under the Central Cemetery, the Undertakers’ Museum is a repository of all things Death-related. Details and artefacts about funeral rituals, ornate coffins, death masks and sombre hearses. There’s a sitting coffin and one shaped like football. There’s the story of the reusable coffin which was never reused. In 1784, Emperor Josef II mooted the idea of a coffin equipped with a trap underneath to drop the body into the grave and reused. This could have saved precious wood but the Viennese protested against it vehemently and the king had to kill the idea. There’s even a DIY about what if, God forbid, you are buried alive accidentally/unexpectedly. There’s a cord attached to the wrist of the deceased which would ring the bell above the ground just in case - just in case - he came back to life. Museum of Illusions: Through nearly 70 installations of holograms, stereograms, optical illusions, reality gets distorted in Museum of Illusions. Here, balls roll upwards, water flows uphill and your brain and eyes make unconscious inferences about whether you are standing on a flat or slanted surface. There’s the Anti-Gravity room, where gravity - and physics - go for a toss. In the Head on a Platter exhibit, you can serve a friend’s head on a platter. The head is on a dinner plate, the body invisible. Knees go wobbly and the ground beneath the feet sways in the Vortex Tunnel while the Holograms section tells the story of evolution through some of the best holograms in the world. Museum of Art Fakes: It is a Picasso. Complete with a signature and date. But it is not a Picasso. There’s a page from Hitler Diaries, a series of 60 volumes of journals that was sold for $3.7 million in 1983. But Hitler never wrote this. There’s Marc Chagall painting but the the real Chagall never added a stroke to this canvas. Everything is fake/forged. That is what the Museum of Art Fakes is all about. A home to faked paintings from world’s famous forgers such as Han van Meegeren, Eric Hebborn, Tom Keating, Elmyr de Hory, David Stein, Konrad Kujau. And ‘identical-fakes’ of Egon Schiele, Rembrandt, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall. The fakes include the works of Meegeren, the man who faked Johannes Vermeer; British art restorer Tom Keating who claimed to have faked over 2,000 works by more than 100 different artists and deliberately inserted ‘time bombs’ in the forged art work.
Museum of Illusions
Museum of Illusions
Museum of Art Fakes
A fake Picasso sketch in Museum of Art Fakes
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.