Summer, what was it good for?
Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I , 1907.
Generally summer is sweaty, slow, full of culturally retarded tourists, and in the art world it has long been nothing more than a chance for institutions to re-group in preparation for the Fall. The shows that we get out of season are often long-running generalized museum exhibitions or fleeting experimental project spaces that by contrast to those in season stink of failure and hot, rotting streets.
This year was of course no different; there are however always exceptions to the rule. Before the Fall season begins and we can all breathe again we would like to draw your attentions to one such summer exhibition that we chanced to see on a recent trip to New York.
Apart from a room of exceptional works on paper by Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt, “New Worlds: German and Austrian Art, 1880-1940″ at the Neue Galerie for German and Austrian Art on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street boasts a superb collection of Austrian Expressionist works including paintings by Otto Dix, Otto Griebel and Christian Schad. In addition the show celebrates the reuniting of Klimt’s “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907) with two marble figures entitled “Kneeling Youths” (circa 1898) by George Minn (1866 – 1941), a sculptor who exerted a crucial influence on the Austrian Expressionists, especially Gustav Klimt. First shown in 1907 at the Kunstausstellung in Manhattan “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” and “Kneeling Youths” were subsequently seized along with other works form the household of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer by the Nazi’s during World War II. In a landmark 2006 case the painting “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” was returned to the Bloch-Bauer heirs before being sold the the Neue Galerie. The Minn sculptures, which showed up later at auction, were claimed again by the heirs who this time generously donated them to the Neue Galerie where the three works were finally reunited exactly 100 years after they were first shown together.
For a review of the exhibition which pretty much tells you everything you might otherwise need to know, Roberta Smith of the New York Times does a very good job here. One thing she overlooks however, despite beating us to the post, is an aspect of the exhibition which we feel really deserves attention; one which we fear most patrons also sadly missed. Down in the basement, away from the lofty floors of priceless paintings, seminal design pieces and the enticing wafts of roasted coffee beans, a real trove lies hidden. Opposite the toilets, crowded onto a wall that fairly buckled under the weight of the awesomeness, modestly untitled and scrawled in a mixture of crayon, chalk and felt tip marker, we found school children’s emulations and appropriations of “Adele Block-Bauer I” and its muse; presumably in commemoration of the warming conclusion of this war torn drama between Klimt and Minn.
The whole exhibition was one of the best we saw in New York this summer. The large number of Klimt and Schiele drawings in one place combined with my first trip to the Neue Galerie was a definite treat. However, despite the ‘real art’, these hilarious if not at times unsettling depictions of a blinged-out Adele Bloch-Bauer in a hot tub, Arrrdele Bloch-Bauer the pirate, Sixties Harlem-Bauer, homage to Hockney and Adele Bloch-Bauer puking down the side of a boat, provide for a far more approachable, claimable, and perhaps insightfully alternative viewing.
If you haven’t seen the show yet we recommend coughing up your 15 bucks. And if that’s really too much then see if you can sneak past the front desk and pop downstairs where unbeknown to most who regard, appreciate and/or stifle the art above, a less important but perhaps more lively exhibition resides.
“New Worlds: German and Austrian Art, 1880-1940” is at the Neue Galerie for German and Austrian Art, 1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street, (212) 628-6200, through September 1st.
For more information please visit: www.neuegalerie.org