Photographs by Oliver Mark
27 April - 16 July 2017
A cooperation between the NHM Vienna and the Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
The Berlin-based photographer Oliver Mark is one of the best-known portrait photographers in the German-speaking world. He has photographed numerous famous personalities including Pope Benedict XVI, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Umberto Eco, Jeff Koons, and many more. However, his interests extend beyond the world of portrait photography.
In his exhibition “Natura morta”, which is divided between two separate museums in Vienna, Oliver Mark addresses human interaction with nature and the environment – in particular the animal world – but also the aesthetics and beauty of death. A number of his works are being shown in the Natural History Museum Vienna, while others are presented in the Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Oliver Mark’s still life photographs were taken in 2015 in the archive of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in Bonn. Using just a chink of natural light and a selection of specific backgrounds, he aims to arouse curiosity and make the observer keen to learn more. His motifs include leopard skulls, ivory carvings, crocodile and tortoise products, protected animals and plants, hunting trophies, an umbrella stand made from an elephant’s foot, items made from rhinoceros, snakeskin clothing, musical instruments carved from valuable tropical wood, snakes and scorpions preserved in alcohol, but also holiday souvenirs such as seahorses, corals, snails, and mussels. All the items were seized by customs officers.
In many cases the objects belonged to tourists who had purchased them as holiday mementos unaware of what exactly they were buying. Trade in animals and plants is subject to international laws which strictly forbids the buying and selling of many exotic souvenirs as well as goods containing or made by using protected animals or plants (for example, caviar and products used in Traditional Chinese Medicine).
Often unaware of these regulations, holidaymakers are stopped at customs on their way home and forced to hand over items covered by these laws designed to protect the world’s flora and fauna. The most important legal document in this context is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) covering 35,000 animal and plant species which are at risk as a result of international trade. The Convention has been in force in Austria since 1982. Persons found guilty of contravening its provisions face large fines and even prison.
Oliver Mark presents his photographs in traditional picture frames. At the Natural History Museum Vienna the photos are displayed next to preserved animals, with the main focus placed on wildlife protection.
In the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna there is a fusion between painting and photography, but also between how these two artistic genres interpret the concept of still life. On display alongside the Mark’s photos are still life paintings and animal depictions by Dutch artists such as Willem van Aelst, Jan Weenix and pupils of Peter Paul Rubens.