Gustav Klimt has quite the 150th birthday celebration going on this year. You've probably seen the Austrian-born artist before, in art history textbooks or in your favorite museum's gift shop where his work above, The Kiss, likes to cover tote bags and notecards. Klimt is best well known for his gold, geometric-laden portraits of the wives of Austrian bourgeoisie around the turn of the 20th century, as well as his, at the time, controversial eroticism of the female form. His works are gorgeous, sumptuous studies of womanhood, expressed through color and pattern or the simple curved line. If you haven't seen his work in person, there's no time like the present with two unique exhibitions going on across the globe.
In his native Vienna, Klimt made many public works, some well-received and some so misunderstood to the point where he bought them back from his patrons. In 1902, he created the Beethoven Frieze, as part of the Secession exhibition's homage to Max Klinger, whose sculpture Beethoven Monument was central to the show. Klimt's visual depiction of the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony filled the walls of the building until 1903 when it was removed and went into private collection. In 1972, Austria reacquired the painting, restored it and it now lives in a specially constructed room at the Vienna Secession Building.
On display year-round, the frieze is exciting to view with its colorful characters and risqué figures. However, in 2012, the addition of Gerwald Rockenschaub's work Plattform adds excitement to the viewing of the work. Here, visitors can scale his piece and come face to face for a closer study of Klimt's work. To learn more about the exhibit, the Secession Building has more information (pdf).
Klimt's work has travelled across the globe as well, perhaps most notoriously in the case of his portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I. In 2006, the painting sold for $135 million after a bizarre reattribution lawsuit. The painting's rightful heirs forced the Vienna Museum to return the painting to them through litigation. (The painting was confiscated by the government from her Jewish husband during World War II.) The new owners immediately decided to sell the painting, which now lives at the Neue Galerie in New York City. It's a fascinating tale of reattribution and our current art market, which is re-told along with Klimt's biography in Lady in Gold (on Amazon or at your local library.) For a quicker summary, a New York Times article covers the saga in fewer words.
In New York City, the Neue Galerie is holding an exhibition entitled, Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Celebration until August 27, 2012. View the portrait, as well as other works, drawings and photographs of the artist and gain insight into Klimt's artistic legacy.