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Remarks by Alexander Schallenberg at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

"The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I" 

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort.

Dear Director Max Hollein!
Dear Beate Palfrader, Member of the Regional Government of Tyrol!
Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is a great honour to be here tonight at the occasion of the opening of a really thrilling exhibition.

I was already last week in New York, although in my capacity as Foreign Minister, where I had the pleasure to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. Now I am back in my capacity as Austrian Minister for Arts and Culture! And I can tell you one thing: The more you have to deal with foreign policy and international relations the more you appreciate the advantage of also in charge of Arts and Culture…

I have tried both and there is no comparison … 

And being the Austrian Minister for Arts and Culture is a special treat! You can easily convince yourself afterwards when you see the exhibition. This is an "Austrian Moment" at the Met as Max Hollein put it this morning – an exhibition with a nearly exclusive reference to Austria. Outside Austria there are probably better known members of the Habsburg family such as Empress Sisi, Emperor Franz Joseph I, or Empress Maria Theresia. But Maximillian I was in many ways an extraordinary figure in European and Austrian history.

His reign marked the beginning of the Habsburgs as primus inter pares among European rulers. With his marriage to Mary from Burgundy, not only brought him access to one of the most culturally-minded, sophisticated and richest dynasties in Europe. It was also the first culmination point of what later on was called the marriage policy of the Habsburgs.

"Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube" – Let others wage war, you happy Austria marry!

As a side-effect of Maximilian’s marriage with Mary of Burgundy was that it set off two centuries of rivalry between France and the Habsburg Empire. If you look at today’s map of Europe you might be inclined to say that the French won in the end. For now … Maximilian I is also interesting because he stood at a crossroad of history. Marking a turning point in the transition from medieval times to the renaissance. We just have to recall the ground-breaking changes and radical upheavals which took place during Maximilian’s lifetime:

  • The advance of the Ottomans forces, after the Fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire,
  • The emergence of the printing press invented by Gutenberg
  • The discovery of America by Columbus and the circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese
  • The beginning of the Protestant Reformation and the publication of Martin Luther´s Ninety-five Theses.
  •  And the Copernican revolution challenging the geocentric model.

These were truly interesting times. Living in this age of transition Maximilian was not only "the last knight", but at the same time the 1st renaissance prince in Austria. He was in fact a man of his time and – if you like – one of the first politicians of modern age.

  • A leader with an inclination to self-portrayal.
  • Who used the modern means of communication for public profiling and who was very early on concerned about his reputation.
  • Some even claim that he invented modern public relations, by distributing flyers, commissioning four biographies and even developing an own typeface which is still in use today as the title-font of the New York Times.

That we continue to call Maximilian "the last knight" proves that his PR worked wonderfully. Just imagine a world leader of today being able to influence his image so thoroughly that his spin still works 500 years later. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Metropolitan Museum and its director Max Hollein for this initiative and to Pierre Terjanian, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Curator in charge of the Department of Arms and Armor for putting this exhibition together. This is in my view a wonderful example of a fruitful cultural exchange between the United States and Austria and an effective collaboration between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and some of Austria´s leading Museums, such as the Kunsthistorische Museum.

This show finally proves once and for all: there is not only the Sound of Music in Austria, but also a flair of "Game of Thrones"!

Thank you for your attention!