September 25, 2012
By Belinda Chun
Gottfried Helnwein Feature Article
Gottfried Helnwein is an international artist in his early 60s, whose work is now housed in such prestigious collections as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and the Chinese Museum of Art in Beijing. Personal clients include the major American collector Kent Logan and the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Recent headlines includeGottfried Helnwein work sold for over $120,000 at Sotheby’s.
In 2004, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco organized the first one-person exhibition of Gottfried Helnwein at an American Museum: “The Child, works by Gottfried Helnwein” at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. The show attracted almost 130,000 visitors and the San Francisco Chronicle quoted it as “the most important exhibition of a contemporary artist in 2004”. Steven Winn, Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic, wrote: “Helnwein’s large format, photo-realist images of children of various demeanors boldly probed the subconscious. Innocence, sexuality, victimization and haunting self-possession surge and flicker in Helnwein’s unnerving work”.
The human condition as his subject matter has emerged and stayed consistent throughout his career. The metaphor for his art, although it included self-portraits, is dominated by the image of the wounded child, scarred physically and emotionally.
At first glance his work may seem quite dark, but once you take a few moments to take in the work each of his works have the common thread of –truth. They depict children loosing their childhood to war. These are image that haunt Gottfried as a young boy growing up through hard times and seeing the suffering of many. His portraits also depict the balance of power with many solders in crowds or groups overlooking the other figures. Often with a strong lifeless stoic stare.
Each show draws a crowd. With over 130,000 recorded for the San Fransisco Museum of Modern art. Gottfried now almost exclusively does museum exhibites and is booking 2-3 years in advance and selling his original paintings sometimes prior to completion. His prints are also coveted and hard to find.
Helnwein’s precise photo-realism presents all these images with a bland unemotional detachment, and the evidence is much more compelling as a result. Skin, lips, eyes and hair are painted with dispassionate care in acrylic over digital prints of the original photographs. Helnwein studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna. He was awarded the Master-class prize of the University of Visual Art, Vienna, the Kardinal-König prize and the Theodor-Körner prize.
Above fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger is going though a preview of one of Gottfrieds’ openings. Arnold has been and avid fan and collector over the years. Helnwein is know for his paintings but also explores many other mediums always looking for new ways to express his art. Gottfried also works in photography, print, installation, video and performance art. Some of his installation are so large they wrap the side of an entire building. This tends to make an impression with his striking imagery.
The scale of his works are breath taking. Above is a younger Gottfried shown with his family.
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