Formerly a part of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Senefelgasse 3 has been the art gallery and design space’s home since November 2012. Before Im Ersten occupied the space it was a surf shop, with coordinating bamboo décor and beach kitsch. Those days are gone, as now the venue is a clean and stylish art gallery. It took a lot of work rebuilding and remodelling the space to get it to look the way it does today. Fortunately, the building’s owner is an art advocate himself and was instrumental in supporting the project.

Im Ersten by Peter Bender
Im Ersten, photo: Peter Bender
by Peter Bender

With help from Gregor Eichinger, a designer from Upper Austria who has made a name for himself designing spaces in Vienna and beyond (Café Korb, Galerie Ostlicht, Galerie Westlicht, among others), the open art centre possesses a very inviting and friendly atmosphere. The events program is similarly streamlined and accessible. The arts centre supports young artists by providing them a platform to show their work in short-term exhibitions, sometimes just two weeks long. In addition to art openings, the centre hosts wine tastings, book presentations and product launches.

Im Ersten by STADTBEKANNT Mautner
Im Ersten, photo: STADTBEKANNT Mautner
Im Ersten by STADTBEKANNT Mautner

The goal of the centre is to create a network of artists and young professionals who are willing to share their work and create something together. Its focus is not so much on creating profit, but more on the idealogical collaboration of individuals coming together as friends and colleagues. The current exhibition shows art works by twelve different artists that are not directly linked, yet somehow contain a common thread between them.

Im Ersten by STADTBEKANNT Mautner
Im Ersten, photo: STADTBEKANNT Mautner
Im Ersten by STADTBEKANNT Mautner

The tiny shop in back of the art gallery is another result of shared interests and values. A small, whimsical courtyard connects the back of the showroom with the little entrance to the schop, a room approximately 4 m² in size filled with objects made by artists in residence and friends of the organization. This place possesses a special creativity – sometimes amongst the high quality leather shoes and other wares, a photographer may decide to make jam – or a painter, clarified butter. Of special interest are the Flaschengeister by Helge Timmerberg. They are “genies in bottles” for various purposes. One protects against misjudgment, another against the “fear of alcoholic beverages”, to name only two. Despite the shop’s small size, it is still a place in which you would like to spend more time; perhaps the Flaschengeister keep everyone’s spirits’ lifted here.

Im Ersten is certainly a great project that successfully connects young artists with a professional work and creative environment. Im Ersten provides a nice counterpoint to its fancy 1st district environs precisely because it takes a down-to-earth approach to art-making and collective work, as opposed to being profit driven.

Header image: Peter Bender