Last month Neue Galerie filled its spaces with a spectacular exhibition of Viennese paintings, drawings, decorative arts, costumes and other fashion-related objects for its spring exhibition.
Personal identity is the focal point of Vienna 1900: Style and Identity, and the works on display reveal a common theme in the fine and decorative arts of Vienna at the turn of the last century: the evolving concept of modern individual identity and the sense of self. Traditional ways of defining identity (based on gender, religion and class) were being fundamentally challenged, and the core meaning of the self was radically redefined. Artists expressed and documented this transition as they searched for a modern and specifically Viennese identity.
The exhibited artworks survey the changing representations of women, psychological portraits and the intersections of art, medicine and psychology in the paintings of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gersti and Oskar Kokoschka. Examples of women’s fashions from the period reveal how women’s silhouettes changed from straitlaced and corseted to looser and empire-waisted, reflecting the era’s changing aesthetic.
Vienna 1900: Style and Identity includes more than 150 artworks. Some of the highlights are Klimt’s Portrait of Baroness Elisabeth Bachofen-Echt, Kokoschka’s Lotte Franzos and erotic drawings by Schiele. Also on view are important decorative objects by Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser of the Wiener Werkstatte, as well as designs by Austrian architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos. A small music room is devoted to avant-garde Viennese composers such as Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg.
Accompanying the exhibition, Neue Galerie is presenting lectures on turn-of-the-century Viennese culture and society. There is also an ongoing free film series and a chamber music recital is scheduled to take place in May. Vienna 1900: Style and Identity is on view through June 27.