Vienna museum hosts swingers club to expose sexual inhibitions

A renowned Vienna art museum has asked a "swingers" group to move into a Gustav Klimt exhibition to help gallery visitors confront their sexual inhibitions.

During the day visitors to the Secession contemporary art museum walk among the mattresses and erotic paraphernalia of the "Element6" sex club to view masterpieces by Klimt, who once scandalised Edwardian Europe with his sexually explicit art.

By night, the "swingers" return to carry out orgies among the artworks.

"Group sex in the Secession – has our society completely lost it?" Austria's far-Right Freedom Party has asked.

A spokesman for the sex club said it was participating in the exhibition "to give as many people as possible the opportunity to overcome their inhibitions".

"In the framework of this exhibition at the Secession, each individual can test for himself or herself whether this opens up new dimensions for his or her own sexuality," he said.

The sex club was invited into the museum as part of a project by Christoph Buechel, a Swiss artist.

While sex acts are not allowed during day, gallery visitors wander among the club's king-size beds, erotic pictures, bar and whirlpool baths to view the art.

"It's not my thing but why not?" said Ute Wegscheider, a young mother pushing her pram outside the museum. "Maybe I should go check it out with my husband."

The museum is hoping to reignite the original controversy that surrounded Klimt's 1902 "Beethoven Frieze", the centre of the new exhibition.

Now considered one of the Austrian painter's most important works, the frieze was once thought of as obscene and pornographic because of the way women's bodies were depicted.

One section of the mural shows three mostly naked women, one who looks pregnant and the other two covered only by their long flowing tresses of hair. Another includes naked mythical figures and a zombie-like, half-naked female with stringy black hair.

Klimt, who died in 1918, was a Symbolist painter whose primary subject was the female body and his work shocked contemporaries with its frank eroticism.

The room where the frieze is exhibited is locked at night for security reasons. But it too has its share of the sex club's mattresses, surrounded by fake tropical plants and a life-size stuffed lion.

Gerald Adler, of Britain's Kent School of Architecture, who is planning to take students to see the exhibition said that sex no longer had the power to shock in a modern art museum.
"He's putting it in a place that's an accepted venue for avant-garde art, so it loses its effect," he said.