Back to Freud’s town – The portrait of Vienna


The National Gallery’s Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900, is an exhibition concentrated around the city which, despite being a police state torn by anti-Semitism and misogynistic attitudes amongst other, was a cultural capital and a flourishing art scene. The exhibition hurdles back and forth in time, from the 1820s until the end of First World War, displaying the changes in attitudes among the Middle class over a century that started with democratic reforms and ended in conservative and nationalist mass movements. Artists, such as the leading Viennese painter, Gustav Klimt, who was dedicated to painting the female body, proved a stark contrast to the political attitudes of Vienna and was one of the many who focused on the individual, rather than society. Centring on the Austrian capital’s famous 19th century fin-de-siècle and the painters who worked on demand – Jews and gents alike wanted their portraits painted – the exhibition describes, escorts and journeys the viewers through Vienna.

Being a city known for Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, but also the Vienne Secession movement, the art of Vienna and their cultural weight occupies the dimly lit Sainsbury Wing and creates an impression of dark, claustrophobic pre-war Vienna. The exhibition is neither comforting nor depressing; it rather leaves you to wonder. Klimt, who was the first president of the Vienne Secession movement (a movement which made the French impressionism known to the Austrian public), has a well-deserved spotlight in the National Gallery’s exhibition. Additionally, as Adrian Seale wrote in the Guardian – Klimt’s portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl is the true conclusion to the show. Klimt, who died before finishing the portrait, ends on a note of melancholy, but solace, as we realise that the painting remains unfinished and that the sitter never lived past the horrors of a German concentration camp.

Widely known artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl, Oskar Kokoschka and Arnold Schönberg, are presented side by side with other influential, but less widely known, painters in this exhibition. Whether intentionally or not, these painters’ work was in contrast to their peers in Rome and Paris, and in Vienna the individual was the essential subject, hence the portraits. The painters painted famous and families alike, always with the human in focus. Maybe this is why the paintings are so powerful – the lives of these people seem distant, yet so intimate, when viewing their portraits in the diffusely lit gallery. Other paintings worth noticing, are Klimt’s portrait of Hermine Gallia, the Jewish patron of art and design who was driven out of the city by anti-Semitism, and also the room of unfinished work that never lived up to the expectations of patrons.

The exhibition opens to the public tomorrow, October 9th.

Highlight paintings include (According to the N.G):

‘The Family (Self Portrait)’ by Schiele (1918, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna)

‘Nude Self Portrait by Gerstl’ (1908, Leopold Museum, Vienna)

‘Portrait of a Lady in Black’ by Gustav Klimt (about 1894, Private collection)

‘Portraits of Christoph and Isabella Reisser’ by Anton Romako (1884-5, Leopold Museum, Vienna)


Klimt’s portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl 

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Is David Bowie art?


It is not new that the art world sometimes presents unconventional exhibitions that make you think ‘whaaaaat, is this art’? ‘Is this really something that should be in a museum?’ When I read that the V&A was putting David Bowie centre stage in a new exhibition opening this week I smiled at first and thought to myself, when did he, appart from his booth cut jeans, become any artistic at all?

On the other hand, I am really not surprised. Actually, exhibitions like this one has become something of our time which are rapidly growing in popularity. It is not all about exhibiting paintings and portraits anymore – today it is more about taking a well-known subject and presenting it in an artistic way. Galleries are adapting to a modern society and have realised that Turner and Gainsborough might not be in the interest of the whole nation. Therefore, because galleries are trying to reach a larger audience,  subjects like ‘David Bowie’ become art. Picture this –  David Bowie is a man (no surprise there) and not a painting or a photography. But, because he is a superstar (a funky-looking one as well) and someone people are interested in, his life and career can be exposed in a creative way and presented as an exhibition.

Timing is also very important when planning an exhibition like this one and it is surely no accident that it opens this week. According to the Guardian, this week Bowie yet again hit the top spot on the music charters in the UK with his first new material in a decade, the album The Next Day. Not just that, the man, who actually qualifies for a pensioners bus ticket, is the ‘art’ that the V&A applauds for breaking their fastest selling exhibition record ever. With more than 42,000 pre-booked tickets before the opening on Sunday the gallery is ready to have their doors ran down by Bowie fans.

It is no secret that presenting a superstar like Bowie in an exhibition looked forward to by so many Bowie fanatics are not an easy task. Curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh have digged out more than 300 objects from the legends own archive. The exhibition are presenting not only his career, but the lasting influence he has had on music, film and – strictly speaking fur boas and orange hair – fashion.

I have to say,  I never thought David Bowie ever would be mentioned in connection with this blog, but there we are. In my opinion, that is why art is such a fascinating subject to write about, because you never know what is going to come your way. The fact that a pop icon is art in the 21st century makes me wonder what we can expect in the future. Exciting or scary – up to you. All I know is that ‘old school’ arts are not going anywhere so we might as well welcome the new.

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The artsy journalist is presenting: painting of the week!


This week I decided to say a little about a portrait painted by one of my favorite painters, but I had one problem – I could not choose only one. Lucian Freud, as you might already know, is famous for his raw, natural and honest portraits of people. I couldn’t choose one, because in my opinion, they work so much better together. After the breathtaking exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery last year, I know I am not the only one who feels like this about Freud. The whole art world realised after the exhibition that Freud was not someone made for shadowy corners. I am not trying to say that Freud was not well-known before this exhibition, but after his death in 2011 he got a reputation boost and have been applauded throughout the art-loving world.

The reason why I like Freud is because he paints so honestly and strong. I mean – he paints fat women naked and spread out in awkward positions on a sofa. It might not sound artistic to you – but the fact that it is, and looks beautiful, is why Freud is such a genius. And he will be remembered. Not only as the only British contemporary artist worth knowing, but as someone with a raw appetite for live. Martin Gayford, who sat for one of Freud’s portraits, has written a book about his experience with the painter. After reading that book, there is no doubt that Freud loved people and to me, his love for people is what makes his portraits so genuine.

If you haven’t opened your eyes for Freud yet, it is about time you do. Even now, a year after the exhibition, it is still praised as the best contemporary exhibition hosted by any London gallery.

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The art of picturing the Earth



In these days of technology and seemingly endless possibilities it is sometimes hard to define what art is and what defines good art. Only in recent years have photography been included in the ‘good art’ category, which I must admit, is fair enough. Even though you could argue that masterpieces such as Constables landscape paintings requires more skill and effort than taking landscape photographs, I still believe that catching a view, in a specific light and in that very moment is an art in itself. Elaborating on that – what then is landscape photography in 2013? Is it beautifully hidden forests in Arizona, a New York sky scraper or a photo showing the impact the human race have on this world in terms of pollution and damage?

The curator of Landmark: the Fields of Photography, William A. Ewing answers yes to all of the questions above by guiding the viewer smoothly from piece to piece in a new exhibition at Somerset House. The exhibition, which presents 130 original works, argues that the world is best viewed – both from Earth, space and under water – as it really is. Because of that, the exhibition features photographs of beautiful and astonishing landscapes, but also, up-close shots of an oil spill, a river running red with nickel tailings and a dried out lake. The viewer is left with a feeling that the exhibition wants to show the contrasts between the beautiful and the ruined corners of the world.

Another thing that fascinated me about this exhibition was the clever use of social media. In our days where a 1,42 million images are uploaded to Flickr DAILY (and that is only one of the many sites used to share pictures), the exhibition has a whole wall dedicated to sunset snaps taken by amateurs on Flickr.  By showing how millions of people have been affected equally by the beauty of a simple sunset, Ewing raises an important question – if that view is so important to people all over the world, why don’t we do more to preserve it?

The exhibition makes you step back and truly consider the state of the planet and what we have done to our inheritance. It is a remarkable collection of photographs – and I thought, still more in the Constable corner of things – the presentation and actual set-up of the exhibition was almost as artistic as some of the individual pieces. You can still argue whether or not photography is an art, but after seing the exhibition and being left with a feeling that ‘I need to go and save the earth’, there is no doubt that photography, can make an impact.

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The Artsy Journalist is Presenting: Painting of the Week!


Work – Ford Madox Brown

Painting of the week this week (yep, I know it is the first week, but it definitely won’t be the last) is the very controversial painting by Madox Brown. Having read and studied this painting at several occasions before, it was a joy to finally meet it ‘face to face’ at the Pre-Raphaelites Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition, which unfortunately just closed, at Tate Britain. Seeing the painting up close, with no grotesque details hidden, and in its full-scale size, was almost breathtaking. And speaking of details, there is a lot. You think you have seen it all (or I most certainly did) after having studied it with a magnifying glass (figuratively speaking)  for a long time, but truth is, you can never see it all. Not only is Brown’s concern with details extraordinary, but what fascinates me even more is that every detail has a specific meaning to the artwork as a whole. The painting is portraying the double lives of Victorian England, both the ladies and gents in rich materials and those who worked the grounds beneath them, side by side.
All I have to say is that this is a painting worth (again, figuratively speaking) a magnifying glass – so bring yours out and have a look!  

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Spotlight: Talking art with a student

Desktop119After spending half an hour talking to Hanne Elisabeth Haugen about her experiences in working with art, it is easy to forget that she is not that old at all. For a woman of 20, she has already, impressively enough, experienced how it is to work closely with art and artists for many hours a day – a reality many others dream of. “It can be boring on long days when we have few customers,” she admits with a shy smile, and promptly assured me by saying “but I loved my job”. Today Hanne is a Psychology student in London and far off from the gallery she used to work in, which was in a small town in Norway. She explained to me that art was something she learned to appreciate after “working closely with it since I was 16”. She laughs when I ask her what kinds of galleries she used to visit over in Norway – “there is only one.” Coming from a small town, Hanne used to work in the only gallery, while now, living in the midst of the vibrant gallery labyrinth of London, it is easy to forget that a museum on every street corner is not common everywhere else. Having been a Londoner for a year now she admits that she still have so many plans for places to see and galleries to visit, but admits that “it is hard to get around to it, being a devoted student and all”. One top of her wish list is the famous London gallery with the fabric pipe. “I really want to go and see Tate Modern. I don’t know why, but back home that is one of the galleries we always here about,” she said and told me that many Norwegian students who move to London are familiar with the modern Tate.

After working with various styles of art such as paintings, graffiti, design and sculptures for over six years, Hanne does not have a specific favorite genre and when asking her what here favorite type of art is, she claims “art can be anything”! According to Hanne, being surrounded by art on a daily basis does something to you. It is like a soothing balm for the soul and it changes you as a human. When trying to explain why that is, she gets a wrinkle in her forehead and I hold my breath while I let her think. “I feel like I can see things that other people can’t see. After working with art for that long it opens my eyes to everyday objects that other people don’t notice”.  A very analytical remark, but it makes sense. It must be wonderful to see art, not only on walls, but also in a bustling day-to-day life. Maybe that is why she seems so calm? Hanne smiles when I ask her if she feels lucky to have such a personal relationship with art. “You learn from working with art and people for many years. You see how art is everything and more to some people, and it does something to you.”

The life of a student is a busy one and Hanne looks at me longingly when I ask her if she wishes that she had more time to enjoy art. “I would have loved to work in a gallery in London. It would have been such an inspiration!” I have to admit; spending time interviewing this 20-year-old art fanatic inspired me.

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I am always fond of an art giveaway – especially with strings attached

Desktop117Source: The Art Fund and The Guarian

Giveaways and free gifts are not something many Britons are used to in these times of economic recession and cuts. It is more ‘now you will have less money’ than ‘now we are actually going to do something for you’. Not only do people in Britain get to feel the recession on their skin, believe it or not, so does art. I can’t even count how many articles I have read over the the last year or two about cuts in art founding, not to mention the threats to make people pay for a visit to their favourite gallery. Therefore, when reading that a genius art collector donated 57 old Italian pieces of art to British galleries – with, which proved to be the clever part, strings attached – it could make even Mona Lisa grin her teeth. To cut it short, Sir Denis Mahon, who has throughout the years of his life built himself an impressive collection of 17th century baroque masterpieces, donated in his will all of his paintings to English museums, only with one condition – the galleries were never allowed to charge for admission to see these paintings. Then, by putting all of these works of art in the hands of the Art Fund to distribute to the English nation, not only did Mr Mahon give England a treasure chest, he also made a very clear statement in these days of cuts and confusions – even when the government has to take away peoples money, let their art be free.

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