European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024

European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024

European Capital of Culture Bad Ischl – Salzkammergut 2024

photo: (


photo: (


The program was wide-ranging. Book presentations, readings, indoor and outdoor concerts at various locations in the city, performances, exhibitions and the opening of a gourmet laboratory offered a tight program in which visitors had to make allowances for gaps, as the individual items on the program were so tightly packed.

History and requirements for a Capital of Culture

In the center of the town, in the former drinking hall with its characteristic, historic columns, is the information point and the press center, where domestic and foreign press representatives bustled about. It has been a long time since Bad Ischl experienced such an international influx. From 1822 until after the First World War, Ischl, as it was known at the time, was used to welcoming high-ranking guests from Austria and abroad. It was only after the fall of the Danube Monarchy and the decreasing number of visitors from the nobility and bourgeoisie that the resort’s appeal diminished. Nevertheless, tourism remained, albeit in a different guise. After the Second World War, cures in Bad Ischl became the domain of Austrian patients who were sent there by the various insurance companies. Culture, once represented in the small town by composers and writers, musicians and theater people, faded into the background. The Lehártheater lost its charisma, later serving as a multi-purpose venue and cinema and was finally closed due to its dilapidated condition. Anyone who wanted to see or hear something modern had to leave. This is now changing with the Capital of Culture 2024 program. For the first time in the history of the “European Capital of Culture” award, a total of 23 municipalities share this attribution. Although Bad Ischl is presenting itself as the standard bearer of the cultural event, the participation of the other participating municipalities from the Salzkammergut will become more apparent over the course of the year. It is hoped that this will not only attract international attention, which should also be reflected in the number of overnight stays. However, according to artistic director Elisabeth Schweeger in her opening speech on the stage in the Kurpark in front of several thousand people, the basic idea is to strengthen culture away from urban centers. She sees culture as a socially and democratically important medium that can have a great impact not only on tourists, but also on the people who live here, especially in rural regions. In this way, it also meets the requirements set by the EU, the donor. According to a resolution passed by the European Parliament, the aim of being awarded the title of Capital of Culture is to “strengthen the competitiveness of the European cultural and creative sectors, in particular the audiovisual sector, with a view to promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”. And further: “Cities awarded the title should also promote social inclusion and equal opportunities and work as hard as possible to involve the widest possible range of all sections of civil society in the preparation and implementation of the cultural program, with a particular focus on young people, marginalized and disadvantaged groups.” In fact, it was already possible to experience the implementation of these requirements live on the opening weekend.

The opening cermony

The opening cermony on the large stage in the Kurpark attracted thousands of people from Bad Ischl and the surrounding area despite the freezing sub-zero temperatures. With the artists from the Salzkammergut region – Hubert von Goisern, Tom Neuwirth aka Conchita Wurst and Doris Uhlich showed that the region has more to offer than just traditional customs. All three are personalities who have made a name for themselves on the world’s stages and symbolize the fact that international recognition can also be achieved with regional roots. A performance by students from the Ebensee fashion school, who presented modern interpretations of traditional costumes made from paper, gave the evening an additional strong regional character, with a contemporary design twist.


Tom Neuwirth aka Conchita Wurst Henrieke Iring courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024
Tom Neuwirth aka Conchita Wurst (Foto: Henrieke Iring, courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024)
Opening Hubert von Goisern Henrieke Iring courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024
Hubert von Goisern (Foto: Henrieke Iring, courtesy
Doris Uhlich Daniel Mayer courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024
Doris Uhlich (Foto: Daniel Mayer, courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024)
Modeschule Ebensee 54 Henrieke Iring courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024
Modeschule Ebensee 54 Henrieke Iring, courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024

Exhibitions and installations

IMG 5269
Maruša Sagadin – „Luv Birds in toten Winkeln“
ausstellung salz und wasser
IMG 6933
Altes Sudhaus Bad Ischl Ausstellung „Kunst mit Salz und Wasser“ (Fotos ECN)
During the day, several exhibitions were opened, such as the one in the post office building with a work by artist Maruša Sagadin. The Austrian-Slovenian artist installed “Luv Birds in toten Winkeln”, a multi-part sculpture installation. Colorful body parts such as tongues, ears and lips are arranged on pillars. They refer to intimate zones and actions that hardly find a place in public spaces anymore. The small benches located in the high atrium next to the pillars can actually be used for sitting and thus also change their previous use. Opposite, in the old brewhouse, the crowds for the opening of the “Art with Salt and Water” exhibition were so great that visitors had to be put off until the next day, as the exhibition was at full capacity. The curator, Gottfried Hattinger, did a great job. 18 contributions from a total of 21 artists provide an astonishing overview of artistic contributions on this topic. From installations that can only be accessed on site via an app on a cell phone to works that are constantly changing during the exhibition and those that radiate an incredible static beauty, everything is represented. One and a half hours is not enough time for a visit. If you want to take a comprehensive look at the works, you should allow plenty of time and not choose a day that is too cold or too hot. The place cannot be heated or cooled, making it a challenge for exceptional weather conditions.

Nearby, at the rear of the post office building, an “embroidered net” by artist Katharina Cibulka is emblazoned at a lofty height. “Solong ois bleibt, weils oiwei scho so woa, bin i Feminist:in” can be read on it. It is the 29th edition of her “solange” series, in which sentences are created with the participation of the local population, which make it clear why there must still be committed feminists today. You can take a look back to the 1920s at the Lehártheater. A new interpretation of the legendary Ballet Méchanique can be seen there. At the first peak of the industrial revolution, the American composer George Antheil created a “music machine” that automatically plays a composition for over 20 minutes, accompanied by a projection of a black and white film by Férnand Leger. Winfried Ritsch, Professor of Electronic Music and Acoustics at the MUK, the University of Art and Music in Graz, and his students created an adaptation of the sound installation using electronic means, which had been commissioned for the Kunsthaus in Graz a few years earlier. The adaptation in Bad Ischl delights with its morbid surround sound, but it won’t stay that way for long. The theater is set to shine in new splendor by 2027 with the help of funds from the Capital of Culture budget. At the moment, however, the ageing space with its visible structural wounds blends atmospherically and skillfully with the sounds of pianos, bells, xylophones, drums and other instruments that are moved as if by magic. Anyone wishing to see this impressive installation must do so by mid-April, after which the Lehártheater will be used for other purposes.

solange banner
Katharina Cibulka “Solange” (Foto: ECN)
ballet mechanique
Ballet Méchanique (Foto: ECN)
Altes Sudhaus Bad Ischl Ausstellung „Kunst mit Salz und Wasser“

Tavern Lab

Genusslabor Daniel Mayer courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024
Genusslabor Bad Ischl (Foto: Daniel Mayer)
Genusslabor Bad Ischl Altes Rezeptbuch
Genusslabor Bad Ischl (Foto: ECN)
Gebusslabor Marc Schwarz Photo courtesy Kulturhauptstadt Europas Bad Ischl Salzkammergut 2024
Genusslabor Bad Ischl (Foto: Marc Schwarz)
Genusslabor Bad Ischl Kredenz Inneneinrichtung
Genusslabor Bad Ischl (Foto: ECN)
Preplanning is also the order of the day if you want to be served fine food at the “Tavern Lab Bad Ischl”. The Bad Ischl School of Tourism is reviving the former railroad station restaurant with well-known restaurateur Christoph “Krauli” Heid from Siriuskogl. There, the young innkeepers can live out their idea of contemporary restaurant culture. From the choice of food to the service, it is up to them whether the act is a success. The first weekend was such a success that many who came to eat had to be put off until another time. Those who were lucky were not only delighted with the culinary offerings, but above all with the enthusiasm and joy with which the young people went about their work. “We didn’t think it would work so well,” was one of the comments, as well as “who says the young people can’t do anything!”. The Tavern Lab is proving to be more than just a practical space for the pupils of the 4 HLa. It is also a first-class place of communication, where you can quickly get into conversation with other guests and the people who run it. Another pub lab will be opened in Gmunden on January 29 under the aegis of Jochen Neustifter. The involvement of young people not only offers practical relevance. Rather, it creates a link to the Capital of Culture idea with a large number of multipliers who identify with this idea.

O tones and the “interventa performance

The people in the Salzkammergut are friendly and talkative. You can make contacts quickly and learn a lot, which amazes culture vultures like me. One statement should make all those responsible for projects away from the capital cities in Austria sit up and take notice, and not just in the Salzkammergut. During the introduction to the performance “interventa Hallstatt 2024“, moderated by Marie-Therese Harnoncourt-Fuchs and Sabine Kienzer, a visitor turned dryly to his companion with the words: “I don’t understand a thing”. In response to her reply that the volume was fine, the answer was: “It’s not the volume, I don’t understand the content, I don’t know what that means, what the women are saying.” The two initiators reported in a few sentences that the “interventa” symposium will take place in Hallstadt in the fall and what its content will be. A completely unexpected response came from a visitor standing nearby: “Art has its own language and this is the language being spoken here. We now have one opportunity this year to learn this language”. The performance, choreographed by Esther Balfe, was a harbinger of “interventa Hallstatt 2024”, which will take place from 19 – 22 September 2024. It will take an interdisciplinary approach to building culture between tradition and innovation. Dancers from the Music and Private University of Vienna, dressed in the white working clothes of salt workers, had wooden bells tied around them, which had been made by the HTBLA Hallstatt. A reference to the down-to-earth bell-ringing tradition of the region, which, however, is only performed by men. The dancers wore characters that turned out to be individual artistic objects. They were designed by the artist Isabella Kohlhuber and together they formed the title of the work: “Glass sliding door”. The artist is intensively involved with typography and used a plastering material that is used in construction. Here, too, the idea of togetherness and involving the local population was taken into account.”
Another interesting comment on the opening came from a store owner in the city center. “I watched Doris Uhlich’s dance performance, the ‘Powder Dance’, very closely and noticed that the naked people on stage looked very different. There was a woman with an amputated breast and even disabled people in wheelchairs. I thought it was fine that they were naked, but I’m not sure if it was good for the children to see.” Here, too, an answer came promptly – and again not from “newcomers”, but from an employee: “It shouldn’t be anything special for the children, because they should have already seen what a man and a woman look like naked at home.” “That’s just art” was how an elderly gentleman summed up his opinion of this performance to acquaintances on the street. Uhlich’s performances with naked people always divide opinion, but artistically they point to one of the most important demands that a Capital of Culture has to fulfill: social inclusion and equal opportunities with a focus on disadvantaged groups. It should be mentioned that the aesthetic component on this evening was a very special one, probably thanks to the cold. The powder that she and her ensemble briskly squeezed out of the powder containers remained suspended in the cold air for a long time until it sank to the ground. The lighting direction did the rest to make this look unforgettable.

Not Franz Lehár, but Oscar Straus

The “operetta” “Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will.” by Oscar Straus, a Jewish composer who worked in Bad Ischl at the same time as Franz Lehár, also highlighted another focus of the Capital of Culture with a production by the “Komische Oper Berlin” on the opening weekend. The reappraisal of Jewish life in the town and the Salzkammergut is to be intensified in order to shed light on a chapter that has been concealed for many decades. To look behind some of the programming, you need to do your own research. But this can be expected, especially from audiences who make their way to the region to enjoy the local cultural events. One or two direct references with background information to facilitate understanding would nevertheless be appropriate, especially for all those for whom art is a marginal phenomenon in everyday life. After all, the two scheduled performances not only served to amuse the audience, but would also have offered much greater potential for enlightenment regarding the life and fate of Oscar Straus and many others in his circle. A brief insight can be found here.
824 kob einefrau 1085
Oscar Straus: “Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will” (Foto: Iko Freese /
It is conversations like the ones mentioned above that will be the salt in the local communication this year. Dealing with the new, breaking old patterns, discussing with each other and also talking about it will bring added value that cannot be monetized. Anyone interested in contemporary art will find what they are looking for in Bad Ischl and the Salzkammergut this year and will no longer have to leave. The fact that the majority of the artistic contributions come from women is not only remarkable, especially in the international art scene, but should be emphasized. This is thanks to Elisabeth Schweeger, who shouted loudly and enthusiastically into the microphone on the opening evening: The future belongs to women!
All information can be found here:

Pin It on Pinterest