Opening next Thursday, 24 February, Birth of the Modern: Style and Identity in Vienna 1900 at the Neue Galerie, 1048 Fifth Avenue in New York, is an examination of the redefinition of individual identity during the early days of modernism. Curated by Christian Witt-Dörring and Jill Lloyd, the show pays special attention to the means by which fashion, design, art and music exhibited the tensions that undermined the Victorian bourgeois culture of the 19th century and led to the ideas of modernity demonstrated by the work of Sigmund Freud, Robert Musil, Karl Kraus and dozens of other artists who considered Vienna their home at the turn of the century.
Featuring displays of work by fashion designers and decorative artists of the period, the show also features major paintings by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Arnold Schönberg, though this is by no means all, according to the Web page for the exhibition:
The exhibition will fill both the second and third floors of the Neue Galerie, with each room taking a different approach to the theme of identity. One is devoted to changing representations of women, with paintings that range from the searing psychological portraits of Oskar Kokoschka to the decorative, highly nuanced canvases of Gustav Klimt. Another gallery explores the crossover among art, medicine, and psychology. Egon Schiele and Richard Gerstl were two of the artists working in this milieu, driven by a common desire to pierce through the outer façade of appearance to reveal essential truths about the body and the mind. The final gallery on the second floor contains drawings by Klimt, Schiele, and others.
The third floor will begin with a room dedicated to architect Otto Wagner, father of the modern movement in Vienna. The second room will be dedicated to the artists of the Vienna Secession, and examples of the art they championed, ranging from French Impressionist paintings to Japanese prints. The final large gallery on this floor will be dedicated to Viennese decorative artists’ two divergent paths to Modernism: one exemplified by the members of the Wiener Werkstätte (Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and Dagobert Peche) and their desire to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, and the other by the strict formalism of Adolf Loos. In a small fourth room, the music of composers such as Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schönberg, with their wish to abandon established norms, will be explored.
Running through 27 June, the exhibition will be accompanied by several special events, including a 7 April lecture by Frederic Morton, who will discuss his classic history, A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889.
Reader of Superfluities Redux are aware of the close associations of fashion, art and culture that I take for granted, and I constantly find inspiration in the excellent exhibitions of the Neue Galerie. And not only myself; the exteriors, interiors and art of the museum have proven inspiration to several other as well, not least to contemporary fashion designers and photographers. I’m looking forward to the reception for and opening of this unique show, which should prove a highlight of the spring season.
- Neue Galerie press release
- Neue Galerie featured images from the exhibition
- Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture by Carl E. Schorske