arlberg1800 – Austria’s Hautest Experience

It’s not Vienna or the MoMA, but it’s close.

Scraping the sky at 1,800 meters (5,905 feet) above sea level is the arlberg 1800, a high alpine concert hall and contemporary art gallery debuted last season in the snow laden enclave of Austria’s St. Christoph.

It’s housed in the Arlberg Hospiz, a five star hotel to which St. Anton skiers flee for seclusion, spa treatments, and four exceptional wine cellars. The adjoining, bunker-like auditorium and exhibition space is the realized, highly ambitious dream of Florian Werner — an artist, art collector, and third-generation managing director of his family’s hotel. For € 26 million, Werner has created the highest altitude arts center in Europe.

Tirolean architect Jürgen Kitzmüller, known for minimalistic modern form, had a hand in the arlberg 1800’s design. At its core is the White Space, a 26-foot high exhibition hall for installations staged by curators from Vienna. The concert hall has seating for 150 and acoustics that near perfection. Also featured: an art lounge, a project room for smaller exhibitions, and two studios for artists in residence.

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The facility, two-thirds of which is underground, opened in late 2015 to rave reviews. Andreas Grossbauer, chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, dubbed the venue in the press as “a milestone”. Both Art Garfunkel and Chris de Burgh appeared for the center’s launch.

On any given day, St. Anton skiers can click out of their skis and wander this highly eclectic, slope side space. Artists in residence include emerging concert pianists, painters, and purveyors of contemporary art. In past installations, a motorized wooden puppet by visual artist Markus Schinwald has greeted visitors at the gallery’s entrance; a sculpture by Gregor Graf has been devised from grand piano fragments. Through winter 2017, the large format canvases depicting mountains and flowers by Austrian painter Herbert Brandl will be on display. The concert hall’s resident Steinway was once played by solo pianist Pierre‑Laurent Airmard.

In the evenings, concerts of classical music, pop, and jazz fill the program, which is open to guests of the hotel and neighboring visitors of Zürs, Lech, and St. Anton — all newly joined this season by a labyrinth of interconnecting lifts. Next to a day’s skiing on such a grand scale, arlberg1800 is, perhaps, Austria’s highest, hautest experience.