GESAMT.KUNST.WERK: ARIK BRAUER AT THE LEOPOLD MUSEUM
Large-scale retrospective on the 85th birthday of an eminent artist, multi-talent and contemporary witness
Vienna (OTS) The Leopold Museum is dedicating a comprehensive retrospective to the eminent and universal Austrian artist and protagonist of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism Arik Brauer from the 14th of November 2014 to the 16th of February 2015. “Following the recently opened exhibition which shows us the complete Giacometti, the Leopold Museum is now showing the complete Brauer”, announced the Leopold Museum’s Museological Director Franz Smola proudly at the press conference for the exhibition.
Gesamt.Kunst.Werk: cross-section of Brauer’s oeuvre
Under the heading “ARIK BRAUER. Gesamt.Kunst.Werk” the exhibition’s curators Franz Smola and Alexandra Matzner present an impressive cross-section of Brauer’s oeuvre, from his time at the Vienna Academy to the present, from his years spent in Paris to the works created in Israel. The presentation features approximately 270 objects, including some 85 paintings as well as drawings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and Gobelin tapestries. Additional documents, photographs of stage sets and buildings designed by Brauer as well as select Brauer books, records and a specially produced film afford insights into the multi-faceted oeuvre of this universal artist.
Exhibition architecture by Gustav Peichl: the “Brauer Plaza”
The extraordinary architecture of the Brauer exhibition at the Leopold Museum was created by the exceptional architect Gustav Peichl. In 2009 the architect was responsible for the masterful staging of the Ernst Barlach exhibition at the Leopold Museum, for which he created a “Barlach Avenue”. For the Brauer exhibition Peichl has designed a “Brauer Plaza” in the lower atrium of the museumwhich includes a “pavilion” – a prismatic tower construction – as well as several pyramidal glass cabinets that “incline towards the beholder” (Peichl). The installation is connected through blue guiding lines on the floor. Referring to the various international exhibition designs he has carried out in the past, for instance in Germany and France, Peichl described the collaboration with the Leopold Museum as “particularly pleasant” at the press conference. He explained that he felt his participation in this exhibition project to be an unequivocal homage to his former fellow student, his witty friend and companion, the “meaningful painter” Arik Brauer, whom he considered an “artist of the future” sure to go down in art history.
Cinema and live painting
Inside the tower is a cinema showing a film especially created for this exhibition with scenes from the life and oeuvre of Arik Brauer. Arik Brauer will paint the six walls of the pavilion with scenes from the Creation in live sessions on six Sundays (23-11, 07-12, 14-12-2014, 18-01, 01-02, 08-02-2015). On each of these Sundays, visitors will have the opportunity to witness the creation of such a work between 10 am and 3 pm.
Vienna, Paris, Haifa
Arik Brauer was born in 1929 in Vienna and still lives and works in his hometown. However, the artist also lived in Paris, and has a close connection to Israel. To this day, he and his wife Naomi spend several months a year in Haifa.
On his 85th birthday: appreciation of his oeuvre
Arik Brauer’s 85th birthday in January of this year provided the occasion for this exhibition. The anniversary affords the opportunity to appreciate the oeuvre of an artist who has not only been blessed with an unparalleled multi-talent but who is also a “celebrity”, a wonderful human being, a passionate family man as well as an important contemporary witness of a dramatic century. To Arik Brauer, an exhibition at the Leopold Museum is “a highlight in the life of any artist”. He feels that this presentation marks “an art historical caesura” that would not have been imaginable in this way 20 years ago. At the exhibition’s opening, the journalist and documentarian Hugo Portisch paid tribute to Brauer’s achievements. In order to understand Brauer’s works, it is helpful to gather insights into the history of their creation. Most importantly, though, one has to empathize with his works and delve into his world, and to be prepared to join the artist in his “search for a new way of living” (Alexandra Matzner). Brauer’s works are of the highest technical quality, making him the youngest of the Old Masters as well as one of the most animated and creative living artists.
The themes of the exhibition
The exhibition is divided into several themes. Along with a retrospective part on the artist’s early oeuvre from 1945 to 1970, there are separate emphases on the themes of war and oppression, the environment, Judaism and mythology. The presentation features not only oil paintings but also a selection of tempera works, drawings, terracotta sculptures as well as applied arts objects.
Brauer in the Autumn
The exhibition at the Leopold Museum also features recent and entirely new works by Brauer, including the self-portrait created especially for the presentation “Arik Brauer in the Autumn” (2014), which was chosen as the motif for the exhibition’s poster and as the cover for the catalogue. Arik Brauer on this painting: “Autumn and the twilight years can be a wonderful stage in life, full of calm and mild air and colors that, although they have always been there, have only now become visible.”
Fight against war and oppression
The themes of “war and oppression” run like a common thread through Brauer’s oeuvre. “The Swastika Crucifixion” (2004) and “Stoning” (2014) are eloquent statements against bigotry, hatred and chauvinism. “The Freedom Bell“ (2014) represents the artist’s appeal to women to free themselves once and for all from the yoke of men, which in Africa and Asia – but not only there – is still a heavy burden carried by the female sex. Arik Brauer:“The oppressed women of the Third World have started to sound the freedom bell. It will be the biggest revolution of all time“. The rendering on the topic of a suicide attack entitled “Shaheed” (2005–2010) highlights in a terrifyingly drastic manner and with exceptional compositional verve how such an attack seals the fate of the assassin as well as that of his innocent victims.
Historic events as fantastical landscapes
Historic events have been embedded into fantastical landscapes by the artist, for example the lunar landing (“Back from the Moon”, 1968), and increasing traffic (“Car Accident”, 1961). Brauer often uses “the seductive power of beautiful pictures” and strong colors to draw attention to unpleasant but important themes.
Outstanding: “The Rainmaker of Mount Carmel”
Particularly stunning works include the “Day and Night Triptych” (1961-1962) created in Paris as well as “The Rainmaker of Mount Carmel” (1964), a chief work by Brauer, which is being shown in the exhibition for the first time since its early acquisition by a private collector. This exceptional painting refers to Elijah, the prophet from the Old Testament who acts as a rainmaker and has the power to create either drought or fertility bringing rainfall. Brauer repeatedly addressed the destructive force and danger of nuclear energy, for instance in the work “The Chernobyl Triptych” (1996/97).
“My Father in the Winter”: a key work in the exhibition
Perhaps the most important work in the exhibition is “My Father in the Winter” (1983/84), a deeply sad and wonderfully gentle homage to the fate of the artist’s beloved fatherwho was killed in 1944 by Nazi henchmen in a concentration camp in Riga. The rendering shows the father in a snowy landscape, surrounded by the camp’s walls, wrapped in a blanket handed to him by an SS solider, which gives him warmth and solace but does not save him. Looking at this painting, on which she has written an essay in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Elisabeth Leopold had “the thought… that the Fantastic Realists will also reclaim their place in world art”. A painting such as “My Father in the Winter” is a “world-class work” in her opinion.
Brauer’s painting: inimitable contribution to 20th and early 21st century art
According to the exhibition’s curator Franz Smola, the Museological Director (interim) of the Leopold Museum, “Brauer’s painting has doubtlessly made an independent, inimitable contribution to 20th and early 21st century art”.Managing Director Peter Weinhäupl extends his thanks to “the artist Arik Brauer, who has contributed significantly to the success of this project with his tremendous energy, as well as the architect Gustav Peichl, who carried out the exhibition’s design with great sensitivity and esprit”.Whatfascinates the exhibition’s co-curator Alexandra Matzner most about Brauer’s art is that what appears at first glance to be harmonious and friendly may on closer inspection turn out to be quite the opposite. The author of one of the catalogue’s essays Stefan Kutzenberger, who also produced the film on the exhibition together with his wife Rikke Kutzenberger, feels that “this power, this great, unifying, anti-fascist power, makes Arik Brauer’s art indispensable in Austria”.
Catalogue accompanying the exhibition
ARIK BRAUER. Gesamt.Kunst.Werk
The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue, edited by Franz Smola and Alexandra Matzner, with essays by Franz Smola, Peter Weinhäupl, Elisabeth Leopold, Alexandra Matzner and Stefan Kutzenberger in German with English abstracts.
206 pages, 180 illustrations, ISBN 978-3-9503018-6-1
Price € 19.90