“Where is the ugliest fountain in the world? In Vienna, Austria!” Inaugurated at the end of October, this work, also criticized for its cost, continues to make waves, sparking mockery and anger on social networks.
“A shame!”, “What a horror”, “is this a joke?” : Internet users are choked up in front of this vast work in gray concrete made up of 33 characters, seeming to be modeled by kindergarten children and surrounding a jet of water. It was commissioned by the social democratic municipality to celebrate 150 years of the city's spring water supply, an exceptional system that is the pride of Vienna.
It was unveiled with great fanfare in a disadvantaged neighborhood on October 24 by Mayor Michael Ludwig who found it “interesting” and by environmentalist president Alexander Van der Bellen. A Viennese collective called Gelitin won the artistic competition with their concept supposed to “represent society's responsibility towards water, the protection of which becomes more and more important” in the face of increasing drought, according to Deputy for Climate Jürgen Czernohorszky.
But this contemporary fountain is not to everyone's taste. On A message in English from the Culture critic account published on October 30, regretting that it was “all they found for 1.8 million euros taken from taxpayers”, was viewed more than 7.5 million times, for a country of 9 million inhabitants.
Beyond the recurring debate on the place of modern art in public space, it is the cost of the monument that has the most difficulty getting through. "Luxury" in times of "mega-expensive living", thunders on Facebook Herbert Kickl, the leader of the far-right FPÖ party, leading the polls for next year's legislative elections. Less than a week after their appearance, the characters were showered with black tears by passers-by, making them look straight out of a disturbing Tim Burton film.
Contacted by AFP, neither the city of Vienna nor the four authors of the sculptures, who form the Gelitin collective known for its provocative performances, have reacted for the moment to the controversy.