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History of the Collection

Belvedere Palace has harboured treasures of art ever since its beginnings, at first the collections of Prince Eugene and, from 1781, extensive parts of the imperial collection, which were also open to the public. The various directors of the house resorted to numerous measures to safeguard the works of art, including the glazing of the central wing of the Upper Belvedere in the nineteenth century and the reconstruction of the Orangerie in 2007.

Around 1900, since no measures were being taken to build the planned new museum for the state collection of contemporary art, Austrian artists were urging an improvised accommodation of works in the Lower Belvedere. In 1903, the Moderne Galerie was indeed opened there, thus laying the foundation for today’s collection.

The executive of the Moderne Galerie was at first subordinate to the Ministry of Culture; it was only in 1909 that it received its own director in Dörnhöffer, who spurred on the acquisition of works of art from all epochs. In 1911, the Moderne Galerie was renamed the k.k. Österreichische Staatsgalerie. It could already boast a representative selection of Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present day and embodied the basic structure of today’s museum.

F. M. Haberditzl directed the Staatsgalerie from 1915 until his removal from office in 1938; his skilful purchasing strategy laid the foundation for the collection of major works of classical modern art. Also carried out during his time in office was the enlargement of the Staatsgalerie to include the two palaces and H. Tietze’s restructuring of the former imperial collection. In 1923, the baroque museum was opened in the Lower Belvedere as the first part of this “restructuring”. The Galerie des XIX Jahrhunderts (Gallery of the XIXth Century) was set up in 1924 in the Upper Belvedere, with works by international and Austrian artists, meanwhile the Moderne Galerie was accommodated in the Orangerie, where the monumental sculpture found an ideal setting in the adjacent privy garden.

During the National-Socialist regime the Moderne Galerie remained closed, which meant that the inventory of so-called "degenerate" works was untouched. New acquisitions since this period have been subject since 1998 to the provenance research department of the Belvedere.

Museum operations during the post-Second World War period have been characterised by numerous new acquisitions, extensions and modernisation measures.