Rare Gold Period Work Highlights Special Exhibition, "Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer"
Acclaimed Show Travels from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to Neue Galerie New York; On View from July 13 through September 18
NEW YORK (June 19, 2006)—The Neue Galerie announced today that it had agreed to acquire a spectacular Gustav Klimt painting, Adele Block-Bauer I (1907). "This is a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition, and a defining moment for the Neue Galerie" said Ronald S. Lauder, the President and co-founder of Neue Galerie New York. "With this dazzling painting, Klimt created one of his greatest works of art. We are overjoyed to be able to give Adele Bloch-Bauer a permanent home at the Neue Galerie. Her presence will enrich the museum immeasurably".
"As a native of Vienna, I was fortunate to see the extraordinary Adele Block-Bauer I often at the Belvedere" said Renée Price, Director of Neue Galerie New York. "This painting is as important to the Neue Galerie as the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre. I am grateful to Maria Altmann and the Bloch-Bauer heirs, and to our President, Ronald Lauder, for bringing this painting to the Neue Galerie".
Klimt worked on Adele Bloch-Bauer I for three years. The genesis for the style of the painting was a 1903 visit by Klimt to the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna, Italy. The artist was deeply impressed by these exquisite works, in which the figure of the Empress Theodora is rendered in a bejeweled setting inlaid with gold. Upon his return to Vienna, he began to work in what became known as his "Golden Style" incorporating gold elements into both his allegorical and his portrait paintings.
In Adele Block-Bauer I, one of Klimt's greatest achievements, gold is used in a variety of contexts, from the lustrous background to the shining fabric of Adele's gown. The subject seems to become one with her glowing surroundings, yet a distinctive figure emerges from the profusion of decorative motifs. Adele appears as a modern, complex woman, her intelligence as evident as her sensuality. Her hands are folded in such a way as to conceal a deformed finger, yet the gesture only adds to her mysterious grace.
Adele Bloch-Bauer was the only woman portrayed twice by Klimt in a full length portrait. It has long been speculated that she and Klimt had a love affair, and that Adele Block-Bauer I contains visual clues about their relationship. These include the numerous open-eye and almond shapes in the painting, which have sexual connotations. In addition, the subject is portrayed with great tenderness, and is ennobled by her regal setting.
The painting will make its debut at the Neue Galerie as part of "Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand and Adele Block-Bauer," a display of masterworks by Klimt that had been restituted to Maria Altmann and the heirs of the Bloch-Bauer family by the Austrian government. The exhibition will be on view at the Neue Galerie from July 13 through September 18, 2006. It is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it was called one of the "five 'don't-miss' exhibitions this summer" worldwide by The New York Times.
"It has been an honor to have had the opportunity to bring these iconic paintings to the United States for exhibition in Los Angeles for the past several months," said Michael Govan, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Now visitors to the Neue Galerie New York will have the same pleasure of witnessing them first-hand."
The exhibition of the Bloch-Bauer paintings at the Neue Galerie represents a unique occasion, one that fulfills, in stunning fashion, the mission of the museum: to exhibit, acquire, and make available for study Austrian and German art created between 1890 and 1940. "This is a wonderful opportunity for people in the United States to see these magnificent paintings, which until this year have never been shown together outside Austria" said Mr. Lauder. "We are extremely proud to show them at the Neue Galerie, and gratified to see justice done through their being restituted to Maria Altmann and the Bloch-Bauer heirs”.
Following the restitution of the paintings, Maria Altmann and the Block-Bauer heirs retained art attorney Steven Thomas of Irell & Manella in Los Angeles to represent them, which culminated in both the Klimt exhibitions and the transaction with the Neue Galerie. "We are thrilled with this result," said Maria Altmann. "It fulfills our wish that all five paintings be seen by a large American audience, first in Los Angeles and now in New York. My family and I received great encouragement and support from the New York community in our lengthy efforts to recover these paintings, and we wanted to provide a New York exhibition to show our appreciation. We are very pleased that we can make these wonderful paintings available to the public in New York through the generosity of the Neue Galerie.
"It has been especially gratifying" she continued, "to know that the most famous painting of the group, of my aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, will remain on permanent view in such a worthy museum." In recognition of the role of the family, the painting will be accompanied at the Neue Galerie by the following statement: "This acquisition made available in part through the generosity of the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Block-Bauer".
The exhibition of the Klimt paintings is of paramount historical and aesthetic significance for the museum. "Klimt is absolutely central to the mission and the collection of the Neue Galerie" said Ms. Price. "The Bloch-Bauer paintings represent an exemplary cross-section of his artistic achievement."
The best-known of the five works in the exhibition is the aforementioned Adele Bloch-Bauer I. According to Christopher Knight of The Los Angeles Times, Adele Block-Bauer I ranks as a destination work-the kind one travels just to see-comparable to Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) is a more traditional portrait composed of strong, vivid colors, which show the influence of Impressionism. Klimt also painted exquisite, light-dappled nature scenes and townscapes, such as those that will be on display in the exhibition: Birch Forest (1903), Apple Tree I (ca. 1912), and Houses at Unterach on the Attersee (ca. 1916).
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was born into an artistic family in Vienna and received his education there at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts). He was awarded several important public commissions early in his career, including works for the Kunsthistorisches Museum and for the Burgtheater. His murals for the University of Vienna, however, were rejected as too controversial. Klimt became a founder of the Vienna Secession in 1897. His creation of the Beethoven Frieze in 1902 represented a breakthrough, and fostered the creation of Viennese Modernism. His historical importance lies in his bridging the art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Klimt gained considerable acclaim as a portraitist of Vienna's upper class, particularly its women. By the time of his death, he was considered Austria's leading artist.
The story of how Adele Bloch-Bauer I and the four others works in the exhibition came to be returned to Maria Altmann and the Bloch-Bauer heirs is a tale of persistence. The five paintings had been stolen from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis in 1938. Earlier efforts at restitution had failed, and until recently, the paintings had been on display at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna. In 1999, Maria Altmann and other of the Bloch-Bauer heirs engaged E. Randol Schoenberg, of Burris & Schoenberg in Los Aikgeles, to represent them in their effort to recover the paintings. Mr. Schoenberg took the case to the United States Supreme Court, and ultimately succeeded, after seven years, in having the works declared stolen property and returned to their rightful owners. For more information on the lengthy battle for recovery of the paintings, please visit www.adele.at.
This exhibition will be open to the public five days per week: Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $15 (students and seniors, $10), which includes the use of the audio-tour. Children under 12 are not admitted and those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Scott Gutterman, Deputy Director
Neue Galerie New York
1048 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028