|Beyler Foundation (photo: Bijan Sayfour)|
Some years ago one of my daughters, aged eight, dropped a colouring pencil into one of the air vents. She was drawing her interpretation of a Matisse at the time. A guard saw it happen and quickly came over. I thought that perhaps we were in trouble, but the guard was only concerned that my daughter could retrieve her pencil. The guard called on her walkie-talkie, alas, no engineer was available to remove the grill. But ten minutes later the guard reappeared with a new pack of colouring pencils, compliments of the museum. My daughter, in turn, gave the guard her interpretation of the Matisse, duly signed. It was a nice, warm moment.
The guards on duty yesterday seemed less relaxed. Perhaps it was because the exhibition “Vienna: Klimt, Schiele and their Time” contains so many objects of great value, loaned from museums worldwide. After all, a Gustav Klimt painting sold in 2006 for 135 million dollars - a world record. We had only stepped into the first room of the exhibition when a guard asked two of my daughters (now aged 13 and 11), to ‘take it easy’. I enjoyed seeing them so excited, but the guard seemed apprehensive when he saw their fingers a couple of inches from a photograph of the first Viennese Secession Exhibition in 1898. I then stepped into the second room, with the glorious, large canvasses of Klimt. Alas, I stepped too close to one and an alarm rang, which earned me a warning from a guard. I wish they had told me before I paid the 25 dollars entrance fee that I would have to stand so far (I guess it was about a metre) from the paintings. And then, just to add to my disappointment, the reconstructed Viennese Fin-de Siècle café was closed for a special event.
But I am being fascicous. The guards were never anything but friendly and the art, well, what can one say. I know that Klimt is not everyone’s cup of tea, or cup of coffee. His work has grown in popularity, but some will say that this is because of its decorative quality – it makes for nice postcards and posters. I admit, I am a fan. Klimt’s career was a wonderful journey, from acclaimed and respected painter of historical tableaus in the accepted style to an avant-gardist with a style that blended post-impressionism, cubism, Japonism, fauvism and a very personal form of Byzantine revivalism. As he got older he continued to soak up influences that came to him from younger artists, and yet, a Klimt is unmistakably a Klimt.
|Gustav Klimt: The Dancer|
|Gustav Klimt: The Park|
“The Park” is entirely different. A word of warning – if you travel to Basel for the exhibition, don’t step too close to “The Park” – you might find set off the alarm and find yourself in trouble. Obviously influenced by post-impressionism here, Klimt has avoided the temptation of using illusionist techniques in order to create perspective. Instead, splashes of paint are piled on splashes of paint rising to the top of the painting (and beyond) to create a real density. Amazingly, the canopy of trees cover almost the entire canvas, with just a tiny sliver in the bottom left which provides the vital open space. It is one of the most unusual pictures I know.
|Gustav Klimt: Attersee|
The exhibition runs until January 16th 2011. There is a lot more to enjoy besides the paintings I have discussed. These are simply three of my favourite things.
To watch a documentary on this exhibition, including an interview with the chief curator,click here.