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Vienna fountain decried for 'ugliness', costs

While officials hailed the fountain's "extraordinary, reality-inspired" design for skilfully conveying a pivotal "sense of togetherness", critics took issue with its artistic properties, venting their anger online

Published: Nov 13, 2023 11:27:19 AM IST
Updated: Nov 13, 2023 12:05:21 PM IST

Vienna fountain decried for 'ugliness', costsThe unusual fountain—featuring 33 humanoid sculptures seated in a circle—was created by the provocative Viennese artist group Gelitin after their design symbolising the "communal responsibility for water" as a precious resource won over the jury. Image: Joe Klamar / AFP

A fountain in Austria's capital commemorating 150 years of Vienna's modern water system has drawn fierce criticism for its perceived "ugliness" and excessive costs.

The 1.8-million-euro ($1.9-million) fountain was commissioned by the city's left-wing government led by Social Democrat Mayor Michael Ludwig and inaugurated with President Alexander Van der Bellen on October 24.

The unusual fountain—featuring 33 humanoid sculptures seated in a circle—was created by the provocative Viennese artist group Gelitin after their design symbolising the "communal responsibility for water" as a precious resource won over the jury.

While officials hailed the fountain's "extraordinary, reality-inspired" design for skilfully conveying a pivotal "sense of togetherness", critics took issue with its artistic properties, venting their anger online.

A post on X, formerly Twitter, by an account called Culture Critic that slammed the fountain's design and huge cost to taxpayers has since been viewed more than 7.6 million times.

Other astonished internet users blasted the artwork as the "ugliest fountain" they had ever seen, with some even spotting a Michelin man-esque figure among the sculptures.

The right-wing Freedom Party's hardline leader Herbert Kickl blamed the Social Democrats for "damaging" Vienna's image by building a "luxury fountain" with "ugly... figures", which he said showed how "completely out of touch" the party is.    

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Contacted by AFP, neither the city of Vienna nor the artist group were immediately reachable for comment.

Vienna's modern water system—renowned for its pristine water that courses from streams in the green forests of the Alps—was set up in 1873 under the Austro-Hungarian Empire to provide the city with fresh water to overcome diseases such as cholera.