“He has no self portrait. He is the mirror of others. As he said, to know Klimt as Klimt, we would have to look at his paintings. Then we will find who he is, what he wanted,” is written on the pamphlet.
The last Gustav Klimt exhibition in the 21st century is being held at the Hangaram Art Museum, in the Seoul Arts Center. Klimt’s works are considered national treasures, but the Austrian government has forbidden them from being shown to the public. The exhibition is not only the last exhibition of the 21st century, but also the biggest one. 100 pieces, which include 30 oil paintings and 70 sketches and posters, are on exhibit.
Why Was It Held in Korea?
The desire for Klimt’s solo exhibition was demanded from the whole world, especially in Japan and Korea. Klimt had a big interest in Japanese culture, inferred from the paintings he owned, and it is a little ironic how the paintings traveled all the way here to Korea.
Suki Kang from the exhibition planning team said, “The number of blogs in Korea was bigger than the ones in Japan, and the Austrian government considered it as a bigger interest.” She added, “It was easier for us to get the private collectors to let their art pieces fly over to Korea because the national museum of Austria approved their paintings to fly before them.”
Into the Secret
At the entrance, there are pictures which were owned by Gustav Klimt. He was very fond of Asia, and it has two pictures which feature the four heavenly guardians of Buddhism, and a dragon embroidery which was given as a present by Klimt. The next things that catch a visitor’s attention are the paintings done by Klimt while he was a student at Kunstgewerbeschule, the public arts school which had its aim on educating industrial designers.
Then there was the main art of the exhibition-The Beethoven Frieze. From the very beginning of the exhibition, the melody of Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven welcomes visitors. On the way to the special section designed just for the Beethoven Frieze, there are a number of sketches which were drawn by Klimt for the Beethoven Frieze. The founder of the Secession, Klimt and his friends decided to hold an exhibition to commemorate the establishment of the Secession, and Beethoven Frieze was the main art that was painted on the wall. This magnificent art was to be destroyed after the secession exhibition, but a collector purchased it and it was divided into eight pieces. Years later, the Austrian government bought it. The original piece of the Beethoven Frieze is still in Austria. The one in the Hangaram Art Museum is a reproduction of the original, made of a light material which can best reflect the original and also be carried around.
The next section had a sign posted on the entrance, indicating that children should always be accompanied to watch that specific section. As expected, the section was an erotic drawing done by Klimt. It had number of nude sketches of women. According to the audio curator, Klimt painted all the paintings with models naked, and even with the paintings of females with clothes on, they were drawn in later. The models of clothed girls were originally naked. In this section, the visitors realized why the artist is famous for being a lascivious.
The Secret Chapter
Lastly, the artist, Gustav Klimt was famous for being lascivious. He had 13 children and no wife for his entire life. However, through this exhibition’s special section, the secret chapter, the public has realized that he was not just a lascivious man. He said, “Anyone who wants to know about me should look at my paintings.” Although he was well known for being a braggart, in his real life, he was a father, a beloved, and a son. He painted faces of his sons, his sisters, and his beloved women. In the secret chapter, there are a number of post cards which was written by Klimt himself, and was sent to Maria Zimmermann, his lover, expressing how much he loved her, and how much he cared about his family. Also, the paintings of pregnant women reflect his experience as a father.
The most impressive painting in this chapter was the painting of his dead son. He broke up with Maria Zimmermann after the death of his second son. He painted the face of this little baby, and it seems as if he is alive.
The secret section is the very first exhibit that has ever been presented to the whole world. The placement of the section made itself more impressive, because the visitors had been shocked by the fact that he painted pretty most all of his females when they did not have a string on their body. It showed humane side of Klimt.
Kang Ji-eun, who was one of the visitors, was there to see the exhibition because she knew it was a great chance. “It is the first and the last exhibition in the 21st century, and I really enjoyed it although there weren’t many famous pieces because of the secret chapters.”
To know more about Klimt, not only his paintings but about his personal life that he never appealed to public, you should definitely go and see the exhibition. It lasts until the 15th of May, and costs 16,000 won for adults. Exhibition is closed on the last Monday of every month.