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Located on some of the last remnants of the Vienna city walls in a neoclassical stronghold belonging to the Hofburg Palace complex, this building now houses an interesting art and graphic design museum.
The first thing that will most likely catch your eye is the contrast of the classical building with the impressive 64-metre overhanging titanium roof, and you will not be alone in this, as it also caused quite a stir when Hans Hollein completed it in 2004.
The Albertina offers a varied program of exhibitions featuring important works of art from the 15th century to the present day. It also houses one of the most extensive and important graphic art collections in the world. This collection comprises some 50,000 drawings and watercolours in addition to some 900,000 works of graphic art.
The origins of the Albertina, which combines exhibitions of its permanent collection with frequent temporary exhibitions, date back to the 18th century, when the current building was donated by Emperor Francis II to his daughter, the Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, and her husband, Duke Albert von Sachsen-Teschen. Thanks to the Maria Cristina's wealth and the wise counsel of Genoese diplomat Giacomo Conte Durazzo, the Duke became an avid collector.
As a result, from the mid-1780s to the Duke's death in 1822 the collections were expanded significantly. One of the turning points for the museum came in 1796 when, as a result of an exchange with the Imperial Library, some of his most prized work became part of the Albertina collection, including works by Dürer and a series of drawings by Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck.
The collection has grown steadily, and thanks to the cession of private collections such as those of the Batliner or Forberg families, the Albertina permanently exhibits pieces of the most interesting range of styles, most notably of the last 130 years, from French Impressionism to the present day and including German Expressionism and Russian avant-garde.
Here you will find the "Water Lily Pond", by Monet, the "Dancers", by Degas and the "Portrait of a Girl", by Renoir, as well as pieces by Beckmann, Chagall, Malevich, Rothko, Rainer, Magritte and Katz and other remarkable works by Klimt, Munch, Kokoschka, Kandinsky, Picasso and Klee.
While the Albertina houses some works by masters the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps its greatest assets are pieces by the most famous German Renaissance artist: Albrecht Dürer, in particular "Praying Hands" and "Rabbit". Known worldwide for his paintings, drawings, prints, and theoretical writings on art, Dürer exerted a profound influence on other 16th century artists.
In addition, the museum houses an interesting collection of architecture, with more than 50,000 plans, models and other materials by renowned architects the likes of Otto Wagner, Mies Van der Rohe and Borromini, among others.
The museum is also home to yet another treasure, a collection of photographs from the mid-19th to the 20th century. This collection includes material by artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Lisette Model.
In addition to the works on display in the museum, visitors can also enjoy the 21 stately rooms of the Habsburgs,
These were occupied by the favourite daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, the Archduchess Maria Cristina.
The various rooms in colours such as ochre, turquoise and vermilion have been fully restored and transport the visitor to the era in question thanks to their rich decoration, furniture, curtains, lamps and sofas, many of which are original. Here visitors will find beautiful gilded carvings bathed in a special alloy known as "Albertina gold" as well as magnificent inlaid wood floors. All in all, this is one of the most beautiful neoclassical palaces in Europe.
The Albertina is busy museum that is constantly implementing new ideas to attract visitors, such as workshops and activities for children. Audio guides and guided visits are available in several languages. The museum also has a nice cafe, a souvenir shop and a magnificent library.
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