The gallery is really a museum dedicated to a narrow window of history that interested two collectors. The exhibition notes that 100 years ago, Europe's cataclysmic war brought down four empires: Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman and Russian with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914.
The war was expected to "cleanse society," but euphoria gave way to despair, as hunger became widespread and staples dwindled. Disease and death followed. The loss of life with industrialized warfare is shocking to remember: 9 million military and 12 million civilian lives. The exhibit quotes Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, who described the initial days of World War I:
"Trains arrived with freshly arrived recruits. I found the entire city of Vienna in a state of intoxication. ... Suddenly flags unfurled, bands and music were everywhere. Young recruits marched in triumph and their faces were radiant because one cheered them ... The little common people who no one otherwise notices or celebrates. ...I found something great, magnetic, irresistible and even seductive in this first popular awakening. .. Hundreds of thousands felt something as never before that they should better have felt in peacetime: that they belonged together."