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Vienna makes sex tourists of us all. Of course both Klimt and Schiele were despicable rogues; Klimt filled his studio with models and treated it as a private brothel; Schiele built a large part of his career on drawing under-age girls, aestheticizing the pedophilia that was a leitmotif of Viennese society on the eve of World War I. Deep down we know that they were rogues just by looking at their pictures, but this is rarely something we talk about when we show our gallery-shop postcards to our friends back home.
Neither Klimt nor Schiele play a starring role in the Sex in Vienna exhibition currently on show at the Wien Museum , the municipal history museum on Karsplatz. Maybe they are just too obvious, and the museum has decided to concentrate on other, less frequently told stories. The Sex in Vienna exhibition looks like overtaking Klimt in the popularity stakes. Nearly 40, people have seen the exhibition since it opened in mid-September, and another 70, are expected before it closes on January So what is it about Vienna and sex that goes together so well?
Few other cities have produced such a flurry of art and literature inspired by bunga-bunga. The scientific study of sexuality was also a Viennese invention. The current exhibition Sex in Vienna looks at the same epoch from a radically different angle.
Revealing the true history of the city through alternative narratives is something the Wien Museum has been doing for decades. More recently the exhibition Viennese Types was oriented towards how lower classes in Vienna earned a living, presenting a different picture to the one we usually get which is about bourgeois society.
Its real theme is the question of what is permitted and what is forbidden, and how the tension between the two is central to the biography of the city.