Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Must see! GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession

Gustav Klimt
Particolare dal fregio di Beethoven, 1901-1902
Materiali vari
(Venice, Italy) Venice is home to the second largest collection of Gustav Klimt in the world right now; the first is in Vienna, the Austrian artist's home town. Together with the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia presents Gustav Klimt nel segno di Hoffmann e della Secessione at the Museo Correr, a dynamic collaboration between two heavyweight museums -- which, incidentally, are both helmed by women directors. Gabriella Belli is the new director of all the civic museums of Venice, and she seems to be blowing off some dust.



3. Museo Archeologico Nazionale*

4. Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca
Nazionale Marciana**


Museum of 18th-Century Venice

and Study Centre for the History of Textiles
and Costumes

and Library for Theatrical

International Gallery of Modern Art and
Oriental Art Museum*





Upper Belvedere, Vienna
Agnes Husslein-Arco is the director of the Belvedere in Vienna, and I found her energy refreshing. During the press conference, she remarked, "Art is the Ambassador of a country to the world." A century after he participated in the Venice Biennale back in 1910, the Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt, returns to the lagoon in honor of the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1862 -- and a fine ambassador he is, even though in his own time he was often at odds with his government. From Wikipedia:

Gustav Klimt
Giuditta I, 1901
Olio e foglia d’oro on canvas
84x42 cm.
Belvedere, Vienna
The Klimt University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings, also known as the Faculty Paintings, were a series of paintings made by Gustav Klimt for the ceiling of the University of Vienna's Great Hall between the years of 1900-1907. In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to paint the ceiling. Upon presenting his paintings -- PhilosophyMedicine and Jurisprudence -- Klimt came under attack for 'pornography' and 'perverted excess' in the paintings. None of the paintings would go on display in the university. In May 1945 all three paintings were destroyed by retreating SS forces.

...This would also be the last time Klimt would accept commissions from the state, remarking: "I've had enough of censorship...I reject all state support, I don't want any of it."

...The paintings were requested for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, but the ministry declined, nervous of what the reaction might be. Klimt then resigned his commission, wishing to keep his work, but the ministry insisted they were already property of the state. Only when Klimt threatened the removal staff with a shotgun was he able to keep his paintings. 

We can imagine the scene: Klimt, the frenzied creator of the paintings, armed with a shotgun, challenging some bewildered officers from the state who had arrived to take his creations away. Speaking from personal experience, an artist will protect their creation like a lion ferociously protects their young. I can almost understand why the state felt they had the right to snatch the art in Klimt's case -- in their mind, they had commissioned the paintings. If they were paying an artist, damn it, that artist must be forced to behave according to the Rules of State. However, Klimt was operating under different Rules. He was following the standards set by the Angels from a another world, the World of Art -- like Beethoven -- who had gone before. 

When the World of Art collides with the Material World, it is like a nuclear bomb. We must remember that King Ludwig II of Bavaria was the enlightened ruler of the World of Art during Klimt's formative years; Wagner was still going strong. At around the same time, Sigmund Freud zapped everyone awake with psychoanalysis right there in Vienna, and Carl Jung expanded on the theme. It was the turn of the century and The World of Art -- The Real World -- had kicked into high gear, which always spooks the state, which then, in turn, kicks into "crush, kill, destroy" mode. Attempting to radically move the state forward is no easy feat, though real artists never give up trying to do such things.

In any event, Klimt got his paintings back without firing a shot, with the help of his gutsy patrons, August Lederer, and his wife, Serena Pulitzer, together with Koloman Moser, fellow artist and founder of the Vienna Secession. 

Then, in 1945, the Nazis destroyed those paintings anyway, but by that time, Klimt had been dead for 27 years, and could only suffer from Heaven. 

Gustav Klimt 
Giuditta II (Salomé), 1909
Olio su tela 176x46 cm.
Venezia, Ca' Pesaro -
 Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna
Now, here we are in 2012, and Gustav Klimt, like many artists Before Their Time, is alive and well all around the globe. [In 2006, the 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (a fine name:) was purchased by Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie New York for $135 million dollars.] Curated by Alfred Weidinger, the aim of the exhibition is "to introduce the visitor to the genesis and evolution, in both architecture and painting, of Klimt's work and that of the other protagonists of the Viennese Secession." The Secession movement, founded in 1897, was a group of artists composed of painters, architects and sculptors with Klimt as its first president. As the new century dawned, these artists objected to the prevailing conservatism in Vienna about the same time that Sigmund Freud was rocking the boat with psychoanalysis. 

One of the main themes of the exhibition is Klimt's collaboration with Joseph Hoffman, the architect and interior designer. These two men strived to attain the total work of art. In 1902, the Secession decided to stage an exhibition devoted to Beethoven centered on Max Klinger's sculpture of the composer. Hoffman was the artistic director, who created three large rooms. In one of those rooms, Klimt depicted the Beethoven Frieze on three walls. I was mesmerized by the work. 

Based on Richard Wagner's descriptive interpretation of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- in particular, Friedrich von Schiller's Ode to Joy -- Klimt illustrates the allegorical theme of Art's victory over adversity.

Beethoven Frieze
The well-armed Strong One, spurred by appeals of suffering humanity, takes up his sword prepared to do battle against the Hostile Forces. His way is obstructed by Typhoeus, the brutal and stubborn instinct, along with the Three Gorgon Sisters, the extreme opposite of spiritual evolution. Ultimately, the conquering hero achieves his goal surrounded by a choir of angels, and his lover's embrace.

Beethoven Frieze
Photo at: Secession

From the official Secession website:

The Beethoven Frieze was originally intended as an ephemeral work of art and, like the other decorative paintings, it was to be removed after the close of the exhibition. It was only owing to fortunate circumstances, that the frieze was not destroyed as planned: the Secession was to present the following year a major Klimt retrospective (XVIIIth exhibition, 1903), and it was decided to leave the work of art in place. 

In 1903 the arts patron and collector Carl Reinighaus purchased the frieze, which was cut into seven pieces to be removed from the wall and was stored for twelve years in a furniture depot in Vienna, until Reinighaus sold the frieze again in 1915 to the industrialist August Lederer. Lederer was one of Klimt's most important supporters and owner of what was probably the most extensive and important collection of Klimt pictures in private hands at that time.

In 1938 the Lederer family, like so many other families of Jewish origin, was dispossessed. The Beethoven Frieze was thus placed in "state custody" and was only officially returned to the ownership of the family heir Erich Lederer, who had meanwhile settled in Geneva, after the end of World War II. At the same time, an export ban was placed on the frieze, so that Erich Lederer finally decided - not least of all due to the increasingly urgent necessity of restoring the frieze - to sell it to the Republic of Austria.

In 1973 the Beethoven Frieze was purchased by the Republic of Austria and restored over the course of ten years under the direction of Manfred Koller from the Federal Office of Monuments Vienna. 

In the exhibition Traum und Wirklichkeit—Wien 1870-1930 at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, the frieze was displayed in a re-creation by the Hans Hollein Studio of its original setting by Josef Hoffmann. It was then transferred to a room in the Secession Gallery specially designed by Adolf Krischanitz.

The stunning Hans Hollein Studio recreation is what we have here in Venice, while the original is on show in Vienna in an exhibition entitled Close-up – GUSTAV KLIMT ~ GERWALD ROCKENSCHAUB – Plattform, which runs from March 23 to November 4, 2012. For more information, please go to the Secession site.

The Kiss
Gustav Klimt believed, "The arts lead us into an ideal realm, the only place where we can find pure joy, pure happiness, pure love." By the way, The Kiss, Klimt's most renowned work, is not here in Venice, because, according to Agnes Husslein-Arco, the Director of the Belvedere, "The Kiss does not travel." But it's a wonderful thing, isn't it, that The Kiss still exists, safe and sound in Vienna?

(dal ciclo Mille e una Notte)
Le principesse e i guerrieri, 1914
Olio e oro su tela, cm 171 x188
part 1 
In addition to GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession at the Museo Correr, there will be a companion exhibition over at Ca' PesaroVenice's International Gallery of Modern Art, entitled Spirito klimtiano: Vittorio Zecchin e Galileo Chini e la grande decorazione a Venezia featuring two Italian artists inspired by Klimt. 
Venice acquired Judith II after 
Klimt's acclaimed participation
in the 1910 Venice Biennale. 

GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession
Museo Correr
Piazza San Marco
San Marco 52, 
30124 Venice
Entrance for the public: St. Mark’s Square, Napoleonic Wing, Monumental Staircase

March 24 to July 8, 2012
Open Daily
CLICK for more information

SPIRITO KLIMTIAN: Vittorio Zecchin e Galileo Chini e la grande decorazione a Venezia
Ca' Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
Santa Croce 2070,
30125 Venice
March 31 to July 8, 2012
Closed Mondays
CLICK for more information

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland & Have a Nice Wax at Palazzo Fortuny

Ritratto by Priscilla Rattazzi, 1982 
(Venice, Italy) A vivid red cape worn by Maria Callas, and created by Balenciaga, the aristocratic designer -- installed next to a suit of armor -- grabs your eye as you enter the exhibition Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland at Palazzo Fortuny, affirming Vreeland's personal mantra: "Style. All who have it share one thing -- originality." Born in Paris in 1903, Vreeland was fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar for 26 years from 1936 to 1962, then editor-in-chief of Vogue from 1963 to 1971.

After she was fired from Vogue, Vreeland spectacularly shifted gears and became a consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, creating a wake of controversy. "I was only 70. What was I supposed to do, retire?" Before Vreeland arrived on the scene, museums were interested in conservation and historical accuracy. Vreeland's exhibitions added glamor and contemporary allure. The photographer, Richard Avedon, said, "Diana lived for imagination ruled by discipline and created a totally new profession. She invented the fashion editor."

Veruschka indossa il Mondrian dress di Yves Saint Laurent,
ph. Irving Penn, “Vogue”, 15 settembre 1965
The exhibit was commissioned by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the granddaughter-in-law of Diana, and is part of the Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel project. From Harper's Bazaar:
When I married Vreeland's grandson Alexander Vreeland in 2000, I entered her most intimate circle: her family. Although I never met her (she died in 1989), it was impossible not to become entrenched in her life. Her family's stories were peppered with hilarious accounts of their life with her and her illustrious career. But it wasn't until I started to conduct research for my book and documentary film, legendary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, that I felt I had finally discovered her real world and what drove her. Her career spanned six decades and witnessed major social upheavals and changes: World War II, the space age, and the sexual revolution. She made sure these events were reflected on the pages of Bazaar in ways that were considered shocking at times but were always innovative, vibrant, and unforgettable.

Read more: Diana Vreeland Biography - Diana Vreeland Quotes and Bio - Harper's BAZAAR 

Fortuny tea gown
The exotic Palazzo Fortuny in the center of Venice is the perfect venue to house the exhibit, which was curated by Judith Clark and Maria Luisa Frisa. Inspired by Diana Vreeland's dramatic flair, the exhibit winds through the ancient palace where Mariono Fortuny found his own inspiration. From Wikipedia:

Nowadays the Fortuny Museum is housed in the Venetian Gothic palazzo in Venice, the former home, studio, showroom and "Think-Tank" of Mariano Fortuny, who acquired it at the beginning of the 20th century. Fortuny invented in his Palazzo the Delphos gown, a gown based on the ancient Grecian style; and the Knossos Scarf, a silk scarf also inspired by this civilization. Fortuny also created new methods of dying textiles and well as ways of printing on fabrics. He created the Fortuny cyclorama dome, a stage lighting innovation that could be used to create lighting effects such as a bright sky or a faint dusk; and the Fortuny lamp, for indoor lighting. 

The exhibition features designs by Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy worn by Diana Vreeland, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, as well as garments loaned from some of the most prestigious private collections in the world with labels like Missoni, Pucci, Schiaparelli and Chanel. I loved the chic and comfortable Givenchy working suits, and wished I had one to tool around in today. 

To read more about the exhibition, go to Diane Dorrans Saeks' excellent blog, The Style Saloniste.

Ceroplasta veneziano (?)
1790-1795 circa
cera policroma, vetro, tessuto, capelli ;
 teche in legno intagliato dipinto e dorato

Venezia, Palazzo Mocenigo.
Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto e del Costume
On the ground floor of Palazzo Fortuny is a truly unique exhibition called Avere una balla cera. Le Figure in cera a Venezia e in Italia, or Have a Nice Wax - Wax Figures in Venice and Italy. I was surprised to learn that Venice was one of the leading creators of wax figures. In his 1756 play Le Smanie per la villeggiatura (A Craving for the Holidays), Carlo Goldoni advised: "Buy the wax of Venice. It costs more, but it lasts longer and is more beautiful." Apparently it was quite the vogue to make wax effigies for the Doges, the rulers of the Venetian Republic, and an effigy of Doge Alvise Mocenigo is on display.

The most riveting display case is filled with the wax heads of criminals, labeled with the crimes they committed: murder, theft, and armed robbery. That fellow you see below was a robber, the face of the duplicitous life he led over a hundred years ago preserved in wax.

Lorenzo Tenchini (Brescia, 1852-1906)
Ritratti di criminali
1885-1890 circa
cera policroma, vetro, capelli 
Parma, MAFS, Museo del Dipartimento di Anatomia Umana, Farmacologia e Scienze Medico Forensi
Placed strategically across the room from the dastardly criminals are the serene busts of Capuchin friars, which are on loan from the Church of Redentore. The dichotomy vividly illustrates the masks of Good and Evil that human beings wear on their faces. If only it were that simple to tell the difference these days...


March 10 – June 26, 2012 

Avere una balla cera. 
Le Figure in cera a Venezia
March 10 - June 25, 2012

Palazzo Fortuny
San Marco 3780 – San Beneto, Venice, Italy
Booking and information: 

Ciao from Venice

Friday, March 9, 2012

European Art: 1949-1979 & Marion R. Taylor: Paintings, 1966-2001 ...and Changes at Rialto

Emilio Vedova - Immagine del tempo (Sbarramento) 1951
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, Venezia
© Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova
(Venice, Italy) Peggy Guggenheim lived inside Palazzo Venier dei Leoni for thirty years, from 1949 to 1979. One of the world's most famous collectors, Peggy closed her museum/gallery Art of This Century in New York in 1947 and, at age 50, arrived at the palace on the Grand Canal like an exotic alien from Looking Glass World, bringing her vision of the artistic avant-garde into the ancient city. With her own gondola, a tribe of Lhasa apso dogs and her legendary parties, she injected her own kaleidoscope into the Venetian landscape.

Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim was born into a wealthy, colorful family in New York. When Peggy was 13-years-old, her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the ship Titanic. From Wikipedia:

...realizing he was not going to be rescued, he then returned to his cabin with Giglio and the two men changed into evening wear. The two were seen heading into the Grand staircase closing the door behind them. He was heard to remark, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen." He also gave a survivor a message saying, "Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward." Guggenheim and his valet were last seen seated in deck chairs in the Staircase sipping brandy and smoking cigars. Both men went down with the ship.

Peggy inherited a small fortune when she was 21-years-old. She moved to Paris, and spent her time with the avant-garde, embracing the eccentric world of artists and writers. With the help of Marcel Duchamp, she learned about the World of Art, became a patron and a collector, and eventually established galleries and museums where she could display her stash. During World War II, she went on a buying spree. From Wikipedia:

In August 1939, Peggy Guggenheim left for Paris to negotiate loans for the first exhibition. In her luggage was a list drawn up by Herbert Read for this occasion. Shortly after her departure the Second World War broke out, and the events following 1 September 1939 made her abandon the scheme, willingly or not.
She then "decided now to buy paintings by all the painters who were on Herbert Read's list. Having plenty of time and all the museum's funds at my disposal, I put myself on a regime to buy one picture a day."[1] When finished, she had acquired ten Picassos, forty Ernsts, eight Mirós, four Magrittes, three Man Rays, three Dalís, one Klee, one Wolfgang Paalen and one Chagall among others. In the meantime, she had also made new plans and in April 1940 had rented a large space in the Place Vendôme as a new home for her museum.
A few days before the Germans reached Paris, Peggy Guggenheim had to abandon her plans for a Paris museum, and fled to the south of France, from where, after months of safeguarding her collection and artist friends, she left Europe for New York in the summer of 1941. There, in the following year, she opened a new gallery which actually was in part a museum. It was called The Art of This Century Gallery. Three of the four galleries were dedicated to Cubist and Abstract art, Surrealism and Kinetic art, with only the fourth, the front room, being a commercial gallery.

Mirko - L'iniziato, 1955
Fondazione Solomon R. Guggenheim, Venezia
Donated: Vera and Raphael Zariski, 2007.7
After she closed The Art of This Century in 1947, the following year Peggy was invited to exhibit her collection in the unused Greek pavilion of the Venice Biennale. In July 1949, she bought Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and continued to collect. The exhibition European Art 1949 - 1979 curated by Philip Rylands, the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, celebrates this post-war period, and her Venetian life.

Lucio Fontana - Concetto spaziole, Attese 1965
Fondazione Samuel R. Guggenheim, Venezia
Donation, Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Venezia
© Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milano by SIAE 2012
In addition, many paintings have been donated to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection since Peggy's death in 1979, and this exhibition provides the opportunity to put some of them on display: a Letter to Palladio by Giuseppe Santomaso, early and late paintings by Armando Pizzinato, decoupages by Mimmo Rotella, two paintings by Lucio Fontana -- including a 1955 example of ‘holes’ bequeathed in 2011 -- a major painting by Pierre Alechinsky, an aluminum relief by Heinz Mack, prints by Eduardo Chillida, a Homage to the Square by Josef Albers, an ‘extroflexed’ canvas by Agostino Bonalumi, an entire room of sculptures by Mirko as well as his iconic tempera study for the Gates of the Fosse Ardeatine, a late monotype by Emilio Vedova, works by Bice Lazzari, Gastone Novelli and Toti Scialoja, and two paintings by Carla Accardi, including Concentric Blue of 1956.

Pierre Alechinsky - Vulcano azteco 1971
Fondazione Samuel R. Guggenheim, Venezia
Donation: Enrico & Fiorella Chiari
©Pierre Alechinsky by SIAE 2012 
The exhibition closes with a tribute to Marion R. Taylor, whose works were donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1998. Taylor died in 2010, and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection dedicates to the artist her first solo exhibition.

Marion R. Taylor - Newton, 1989
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift of the artist, 1998
From the New York Times obituary:

Marion (Riki) Richardson, on February 10, 2010, beloved wife of the late author and diplomat, Ambassador Henry J. Taylor. An international artist, philanthropist and lifelong Republican, Riki was surrounded by a wide and diverse circle of friends. A conservative in political matters, she was a vanguard in her artistic work and advocacy. Her own artworks are in private collections and corporate headquarters, with several of her paintings part of the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection. Serving on the Advisory Board of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, she was active during their European expansion and beyond, and was an active member of many other institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, The Frick Collection and Whitney Museum of American Art. Her charitable efforts and event chairmanships included the American Cancer Society, Women's National Republican Club, American-Swiss Association, American-Scottish Foundation, Manhattan Institute, Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies, and many others. Her dinner parties were legendary, and attracted the political, diplomatic, creative and intellectual communities. A member of the Council of American Ambassadors, Riki was an advocate for and supporter of our foreign embassies as both positive and beneficial links to the international community.

Church of San Giacometto
Meanwhile, over by Rialto, the Church of San Giacometto, Venice's most ancient church, has been transformed. Several organizations have collaborated to raise the awareness of art and music, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is one of them. Others are Chorus Churches, a group of Venetian churches dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of 1000 years of art; Interpreti Veneziani, a musical ensemble dedicated to bringing harmony back to the ancient venues that still stand in Venice; and the Museum of Music created by Interpreti Veneziani which houses the Artemio Versari collection of ancient instruments in the Church of San Maurizio.

San Giacometto by Canaletto (1725)

Now, part of the Artemio Versari collection has been added to the Church of San Giacometto, and the church itself has been buffed and polished, its doors thrown open, transforming it into both a music museum and a church. I was startled at first, but decided I liked the new energy. However, I was a bit thrown off when I was lighting a candle for my brother who recently died and a tourist interrupted my thoughts with the question, "How much do the candles cost?" 

I surveyed some locals in the area, including Sergio Boldrin, the mask-maker, and everyone agreed that the new energy was positive as long as everyone remembers that San Giacometto is first a church. Sergio's tiny shop at the foot of the Rialto Bridge shares part of the wall of the church. 

To me, the most important opinion was that of Paolo, the long-time caretaker of the church. I have known Paolo for more than a decade, and he, too, thought the change was positive. 

Over by the fish market, a new addition to the neighborhood caught my eye -- a shop tucked into the corner, its bold, bright colors proclaiming: ART@The Fish Market. Instead of the word, "fish", there was the image of a bright pink fish amongst a school of vivid blue and yellow fish swimming in the window. I wandered in, and met the vivacious Annamaria Cimbal, who had moved from Milano to the island of Burano and opened her Yellow Submarine gallery tucked among the natives. Annamaria has exhibited all over the world, including in the Italian Parliament. I fell in love with her vibrant pop art, sprinkled with joy and sunshine. 

Annamaria Cimbal with her art - Chinese word for "Love" on the left;
Madonna & Child on the right
In addition, the fountain in the center of Campo San Giacometto has been restored, as has the statue of Gobbo. After years of serving as a bench for tourists, the fountain is finally flowing again with water. According to legend, Venice herself was born at San Giacometto on March 25, 421AD at 12:00 noon. Banking was invented at Rialto, and the church was considered the church of the merchants, who centered at Rialto from all over the world. There is an engraving on the apse that states: "Round about this church may the merchant be equitable, the weights just and may no fraudulent contract be negotiated." If the energy at Rialto, the heart of Venice, continues in this positive direction, perhaps the right kind of magic will return to the Magic Kingdom. 

Fountain at San Giacometto
Ciao from Venice,