Hey Mum! I’m in Vienna! (2)

I’ve been checking out some art galleries. Here’s a few thoughts on them.

Albertina – Vienna Watercolours and Keith Haring.

There are hundreds (and I don’t think I’m exaggerating) museums in Hofburg, let alone across Vienna. The Museums Quarter helps with that. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to describe each gallery or exhibition other than to say, if you like art then Vienna’s got it.

Coming from New Zealand, we don’t get to see art like Europe and the States get to see art. I mean, we have some, and we have some fantastic New Zealand artists. But there is something truly different about looking at a mural on a church and knowing it’s hundreds of years old. Or looking at a piece that is so pervasive that even if you’re not really “into” art, you still know about it. I can imagine that for a lot of people, their passion for art is founded in these museums. Looking at a print is so totally different from seeing the actual painting/sculpture. Here, you can see the depth and the detail, nod, and say “oh, I get it.”

Keith Haring is probably a good example of someone who’s work is quietly pervasive. Plenty may not know his name, but more will know his images.

Like this?

I’m not going to try and examine his work, or the works that I saw at the exhibit – I am not an artist (or even an art critic). I like to enjoy art on a pretty limited basis – do I like it? Maybe on a particularly thoughtful day, I’ll consider why I like it. If there’s particularly interesting history around the art or the artist, that can be cool to learn, but it doesn’t influence whether I like to look at it.

I like Keith Haring because his work is just cool. It’s big and bright and busy and I like looking at it. I don’t like all of his work – shit gets dark later in his life and I think I really like his stuff when he was becoming the first successful street artist, but, yeah, I pick up what he’s putting down.

It seems like art that children could enjoy. Until you look more closely at the subject matter and realise that Mikey Mouse having a big ol’ wank is probably not something that should be hung in the nursery.

Compared to such a modern exhibition, the Vienna Watercolours exhibit was a pretty abrupt change. This is one where the history of the paintings was more enjoyable for me than the paintings themselves necessarily. Vienna painters were significant players in popularising the watercolour medium, which is generally more of a British thing. I enjoyed the landscapes of the scenery that were only half completed – the wonderful colours folding into a rough sketch of the world. It effectively drew your eye to what was actually important. Art for busy people.

I also loved the fauna watercolours, done so precisely for their use in scientific journals. I love a good natural museum aesthetic.

The Albertina had about three other exhibits at the time, but our stomachs were growling and our feet were heavy. Why push yourself when you don’t have to, you know? They’ll still be there in a month or so.

Leopold MuseumVienna 1900 and Wow! The Heidi Horten Collection

My goodness this place is big. I mean, the Albertina was also big as in it had a lot in it, but the Leopold Museum is positively cavernous. If there aren’t enough people walking around, your footsteps echo for days on the wooden floors. It gives everything this feeling of complete grandeur.

I mean, it did help that I was staring at pieces by Gustav Klimt. That’s pretty grand.

The Vienna 1900 was a celebration of great Austrian artists who were coming up to the 100 year anniversary of their deaths – Klimt, Moser, Gerstl and Kokoschka. They were all impressive, but I particularly enjoyed the Art Deco design work by Moser and just all the work by Klimt.

He’s famous for his Art Nouveau, gold leaf paintings like The Kiss (which we did not see this time around because it’s hanging up in the Belvedere which we will get to soon) but I fell in love with his portraits. Klimt, before he really became KLIMT, often painted miniatures. To a mind-numbing level of detail. He can capture the most subtle expressions – none of the people in his portraits had a simply demure or happy look on their faces. There was one in particular (although I think this was in the Heidi Horton collection, not in this exhibit) which was just a rough sketch, but the woman in the drawing stared directly at you with a wicked smile on her face. I didn’t think women were allowed wicked smiles back at the turn of the 20th century?

But my favourite exhibition here was the Heidi Horton Collection. Art collections are absolutely fascinating. They often span centuries of painters and countless styles. After days of staring at history (because I think Vienna is just made of pure, unadulterated history) it was satisfying to see some of the more modern artists whose work I had always wanted to see. For example, there was a really neat Lichtenstein, and several pieces by Andy Warhol including a couple featuring Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup. I liked his Mick Jagger one. There were also a number of pieces by Picasso, but I particularly liked one that he painted during the war of a tomato plant.

I could go on and on about this exhibition, but the written word isn’t going to do it justice. Like I said – there’s nothing like seeing the real thing. Mum, when you went travelling, I know you dragged Dad through art gallery after art gallery. You can still talk about some of the favourite pieces you saw. I think some of this work will leave as lasting an impression on me.

Talk soon. Xo

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