Hitler dog installation sparks controversy in Vienna

Artwork commemorates Hitler’s infamous ‘Pearl Speech’


An Austrian artist has sparked controversy with his latest art installation outside Vienna's renowned Burgtheater, where ten Nazi-like flags, featuring an image of his late dog named Hitler, have been hanging since Saturday evening.

The banners, dreamed up by artist Wolfgang Flatz , 71, were revealed during a ceremony, with a twist. The swastika – an outlawed symbol in Austrian and neighbouring history due to their Nazi past, has been replaced by the likeness of a Great Dane in the centre – supposedly in homage to the artist's deceased pet, which he called Hitler.

Flatz’s project commemorates Adolf Hitler's infamous "Pearl Speech" delivered 86 years ago. 

The installation includes a recreated balcony from Vienna City Hall, where Hitler delivered his speech on the eve of the vote to annex Austria to Germany. Actress Bibiana Beglau, portraying Hitler (the dictator, not the dog), is featured on a looping LED screen on the balcony. Although it's not a live performance, the digital display reflects the scene from April 9, 1938.

In a historical twist, it was revealed that Hitler actually delivered his speech inside the ballroom of Vienna City Hall, not on the balcony as previously thought. This revelation was highlighted by the digital art initiative Memory Gaps through five interventions between 2018 and 2020. On the balcony, Hitler merely acknowledged the cheers of the crowd.

Despite Beglau's absence on the Burgtheater's balcony counterpart, she is portrayed on stage as the Nazi party leader. Additionally, an exhibition titled "Hitler, a Dog's Life" in the 2nd intermission foyer, curated by Flatz, further explores the themes of the "Pearl Speech."

The name originates from a passage in Hitler's speech where he referred to Vienna as a "pearl."

While the controversial installation at the Burgtheater is scheduled to be on display until Monday, the foyer exhibition will remain open until the end of May.

Comments on the story in Austrian paper Heute included: 

"I am outraged and consider this an outrage. I was shocked and initially thought it was a hacker attack. That was my only logical explanation. It's hard for me to imagine that something like this is allowed, especially at such a tense time full of wars" and "...I find it impossible. Everything is obviously allowed under the guise of "art"?"

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