The gallery was founded by my father, Dr. Bernhard Peithner-Lichtenfels, in a six-room apartment on Viktorgasse in Vienna’s fourth district in 1961. Artists present at the opening exhibition included Adolf Frohner, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Jürgen Messensee and Hans Staudacher. Jürgen Messensee’s work was just starting to be shown around this time and the first picture we sold was a Messensee.
Artists shown in the apartment-gallery included the likes of Kurt Absolon, Wander Bertoni, Josef Dobrowsky, Gustav Hessing, Alfred Hrdlicka, Heinrich Jungnickel, Karl Korab, Kurt Moldovan, Sergius Pauser, Josef Pillhofer, Arnulf Rainer, Fritz Wotruba and Franz von Zülow.
The Vienna school was represented by Arik Brauer, Ernst Fuchs and Anton Lehmden – and later Rudolf Hausner.
In 1963 the gallery moved into Seilergasse in the first district of Vienna. The new space opened with Karl Korab’s first solo show. During this time a close partnership developed with the Aoki Gallery in Tokyo which led to the following cultural exchange exhibitions: “The Fantastic Realists – Brauer, Fuchs, Lehmden” and Arnulf Rainers’ first exhibition in Japan: “Trrrr – Phantastica and Halunzinata” (fantastic drawings).
Arik Brauer had his first solo exhibition in the Seilergasse gallery. To coincide with it we released his first record: "Brauer singt seine Bilder" (Brauer sings his pictures).
Other artists who exhibited in the gallery at this time included Hubert Aratym, Bele Bachem, Salvador Dali, Josef Dobrowsky, Greta Freist, Ernst Fuchs, Albert Paris Gütersloh, David Hamilton, Rudolf Hausner, Wolfgang Herzig, Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando, Alfred Hrdlicka, Heinrich Jungnickel, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin, Anton Lehmden, Piet Mondrian, Karl Plattner, Friedrich Schröder–Sonnenstern, Erhard Stöbe, Ferdinand Stransky and Robert Zeppel-Sperl.
In the mid-seventies a close partnership developed with the Marlborough Gallery in London. This resulted in Arik Brauer’s work being shown in London followed by an exhibition of the work of Reg Butler and Barbara Hepworth in Vienna.
At the end of 1978 the gallery moved temporarily into Lagergasse in Vienna’s third district pending the conversion of new premises in Pressgasse in the fourth. During this time the work of Gottfried Helnwein and others was shown.
In 1980 the new gallery in the fourth district opened with an exhibition of the work of Ferdinand Andri.
My father then changed the emphasis of the gallery to the art of the interwar years.
During this period my father brought a number of “exiled Austrians” back to Vienna including Georg Philipp Wörlen from Passau, Viktor Tischler from Venice and Erich Wagner, Fritz Schwarz-Waldeck, Georg Ehrlich, Fritz Gross and Georg Mayer-Marton from London.
We showed work belonging to the estates of Ferdinand Andri, Luis Pregartbauer, Gerda Matejka-Felden, Karl Sterrer, Erich Miller-Hauenfels, Robin Christian Andersen, Hans Frank, Gustav Hessing and others, artists of the Hagenbund movement (including Georg Mayer-Marton, Luis Pregartbauer, Fritz Schwarz-Waldeck, Viktor Tischler, Erich Wagner, Georg Philipp Wörlen) and Jewish artists such as Viktor Tischler, Fritz Schwarz-Waldeck, Georg Ehrlich, Fritz Gross and Georg Mayer-Marton, all of whom had to leave Austria for political reasons or been driven out by racism.
Art was ever-present from my earliest days. Even as a boy, my father used to take me with him on visits to artists’ studios. It was a very exciting time and I gradually began to select artists and pictures myself and curate exhibitions independently.
By the end of the eighties I was spending more and more time in the gallery and under my influence the focus gradually reverted to contemporary art. We developed a mixture of classic modernism (Mario Decleva, Gustav Kurt Beck, Arik Brauer...) and art of the present day (Robert Hammerstiel, Leander Kaiser, Erhard Stöbe, Fritz Martinz and others) with an increasing emphasis on the more recent work.
In 1998 I took over the gallery officially.
In terms of the exhibition programme, I concentrated exclusively on Austrian contemporary art – with one exception: Francis Bacon (1999).
Younger artists (stARTbox) were sought and found for the gallery but established figures were by no means neglected and we developed a happy mixture of classic modernism and artists of the “young guard” that remains at the heart of the gallery’s programme today.
In 2001 the gallery moved into new premises on Sonnenfelsgasse in the first district of Vienna.
Since 2002 we have exhibited regularly at international art fairs. The gallery has also added a new focus to its existing activities and contemporary art orientation – Art Brut.
Thanks to our active involvement in the international art fair scene, we have succeeded in placing our artists in well-known galleries and collections at home and abroad.