Abdullah Javer Robert Voit, 1930

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A Black Person as a Department Store Attraction

The portrait shows Abdullah Javer, who was born in the Wadai Kingdom in Central Africa in 1894 and came to Graz in the late 1920s, where he lived until he died in 1943. He was a Turkish language teacher and advertising doorman. Grazers know him as the romantic glorification of the “black lift attendant” of the old-established department store Kastner & Öhler. In the early 20th century, many European department stores counted on such “exotic” attractions in order to exude a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Pencil on paper
frame: 44,5 × 31,5 cm
Graz Museum

Portraits from the Krebsenkeller

The portrait of Abdullah Javer comes from a series of graphic works from the “Krebsenkeller” inn, which was taken over by the GrazMuseum in 2013. The Krebsenkeller was a meeting place for many different people in one of Graz’s oldest buildings. This building had already housed a tavern in the 16th century. From 1922, when the Wunder family had taken over the inn, the “coffee house portraitists”, whose drawings decorated almost every room, showed up there a lot. The artists Robert Voit and Franz Felix Xaver created portraits of regular guests: representatives of city life from politicians to street sweepers. Among them Abdullah Javer, who, due to his “exotic appearance”, experienced local popularity among Grazers—portrayed by Robert Voit.