The Secession building is an exhibition hall that was built in 1897 in Vienna, Austra. It was designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich and was constructed as an architectural manifesto for the Vienna Secession, which was an active art collective of the time.
Secession refers to the seceding of a group of rebel artists from the long-established fine art institution. The exhibition building was to be constructed on the guiding principles of the "Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession" that was discussed in the foundation meeting. The Secession members commissioned the hardly 30-year-old architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, who was at the time a member of Otto Wagner's atelier, to design the building. The design was to become a key work of Viennese Art Nouveau.
A site along the Ringstrasse was originally chosen, but Olbrich's designs met with violent reaction on the part of the Municipal Council. It was only after the site was transferred to a plot on Friedrichstrasse that the Municipal Council granted permission for "the erection of a provisional exhibition pavilion for the period of the next ten years" (minutes of the meeting of the Municipal Council of 17 November, 1897).
The building features the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, one of the most widely recognized artworks of Secession style (a branch of Art Nouveau, also known as Jugendstil). The building was financed by Karl Wittgenstein, the father of Ludwig Wittgenstein who was a famous Austrian-British philosopher.
The motto of the Secessionist movement is written above the entrance of the pavilion: "To every age its art, to art its freedom" (German: Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit). Below this is a sculpture of three gorgons representing the three artistic strains of painting, sculpture, and architecture.
The building is currently used as a museum.