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Georg Eisler, Ernst Fischer, 1972/73, on display for Spring 2017 at Grazer Kunstverein. Kindly on loan from Ernest Kaltenegger. Photography by Christine Winkler.

Ernst Fischer was born in Bohemian Komotau in 1899. He died in 1972 at the house of the three Feuerlöscher sisters, now known as Prenning’s Garten in Deutschfeistritz, just outside of Graz. During his early life Fischer studied philosophy in Graz, before joining the staff of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, where he remained until 1934. Thereafter he became a member of the Communist Party, and in 1945 he was instrumental in establishing a provincial government in Austria, where he briefly played the role of Minister of Education. Fischer was also founder and editor-in-chief of Neues Österreich. From the late 1950s onwards he engaged himself more deeply in the literary world, producing books and plays reflecting on the importance of culture for the class struggle, his earlier experiences as an exile and freedom fighter, and the necessity of art.

In 1959 Fischer first published his book The Necessity of Art – A Marxist Approach. In it, he explored why art matters despite the trauma and hardship of everyday life. Fischer was a virulent opponent of fascism and the Nazis, fighting first through socialism, then through communism, and finally retreating into arts and culture as a space of reimagining and resistance. As the spirit guide throughout 2017, Fischer’s writings, thoughts and influence found fresh resonance by motivating the artistic programme and inspiring new commissions and artworks.