One Hundred Years Ernest Dichter
Family Dichter and the Dichter Department Store
In commemoration of Ernest Dichter and the history of the Dichter family legacy, a group of Viennese artists spontaneously organized in October an event, entitled “Dichter Herbst,” as a gesture in honor of the family and as a contribution on the part of Austria to come to terms with its past.
The legacy of the Dichter family begins with Leopold Dichter, who in 1890 founded Vienna’s largest department store outside the Wiener Gürtel in the Grundsteingasse. Its history entails having been entirely rebuilt in 1935, followed by aryanization in 1938, restituted in the early 1950s and renamed, “OSEI” after its purchaser, Oskar Seidenglanz. After years of abandonment, the building’s space was used and developed by a group of painters, writers, musicians and graphic artists, who between 2005 and 2007 used the space for exhibiting their works. In the meantime, the area located at Grundsteingasse, has become a trendy district with artistic flair. Aware of the new dynamics of the area, officials are upgrading the streets so as to attract new residents to the community. Subsequently, the old department store was torn down in spring of 2007 to make space for a residential building, and the artists were compensated by having small galleries and ateliers built along the street.
As a farewell to the department store and before it was demolished, the artists organized the last of its (4) exhibitions, entitled “Collection Dichter,” in memory of Ernest Dichter (1907 – 1001), nephew of Leopold Dichter who worked as a window dresser during his youth in his uncle’s department store. During his early adult years, Ernest Dichter became a Viennese psychologist, then fled Vienna for the U.S. shortly before the Anschluß only to become known years later as the “father of motivational research.” Applying Freudian psychoanalytic concepts to business – in particular to the study of consumer behavior – his ideas strongly influenced the course of the 20th century advertising industry. The exhibition “Collection Dichter” included favorite themes, topics and advertising slogans devised by Ernest Dichter, such as Exxon’s famous, “put a tiger in your tank.”
Now, along the Grundsteingasse, various exhibit halls and public spaces commemorate the history of the Dichter family, serving as a homage to the family and revitalization of the area. Invited as honorary guests to the opening of “Dichter Herbst” in October were two additional family members, Walter Arlen and sister, Edith, who reside in Los Angeles. Both, together with their parents, lived in an apartment in the department store before having fled Vienna for the U.S. in 1939. Walter Arlen, born in Vienna in 1920, went on to become a composer, music critic (L.A. Times) and university professor. The event featured a performance of a Sonate for piano and violin Arlen composed forty years previously and which he heard performed for the first time. Also present at the event was Hannah Lessing, Secretary General of the Austrian National Fund and General Settlement Fund, responsible for restitution.