Gustav Klimt: 150 Anniversary Fete at Upper East Side Neue Galerie

Adele Bloch-Bauer, Klimt's signature portrait at Upper East Side Neue Galerie.

Throughout this whole year, in museums and galleries all over Austria, there have been exhibitions honoring the 150th birthday of one of the all time greats, native son Gustav Klimt. The Albertina, the Belvedere, the Kunsthistorisches, the Leopold, the Wien Museum… all are putting on shows that celebrate some aspect of Klimt's extraordinary, revolutionary art. Not wanting to miss out on the festivities, the Upper East Side's Neue Galerie, a small but handsome museum housed within a Fifth Avenue mansion (once home to Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III), and devoted entirely to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design, is holding a Klimt party of their own. Not a big bash, mind you, and nothing too loud, thank you very much. More like a fancy tea party, perhaps, with a few slightly eccentric, albeit quite attractive guests, a stroll and step from The Marlowe on 81st.   

Forthaus in Weissenbach am Attersee painting by Gustav Klimts at Neue Galerie.

Anyway, we went to the Neue Galerie's Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Celebration early this week, just a few days after the exhibition opened, and were surprised by the large crowds of tourists packed into the mansion's plush, hushed rooms (maybe spillover from would-be Met goers, which is closed on Mondays?), and, frankly, unsurprised by our disappointment about the show as a whole. Of all the venues at which to look at art in this glorious city, the Neue Galerie has got to be the least welcoming. No one under 16 is admitted. No photographs, ever. No water allowed. It's crazy expensive for its size: $20 for a space that's probably smaller than several of Chelsea's biggest (and free) galleries. And, though its single-minded focus is admirable, it often feels like: if you've seen one exhibition here, you've seen them all. 

The Dancer painting by Klimt at the 150th Anniversary Celebration exhibit in NYC.

The Neue Galerie's Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Celebration is limited to two rooms. Seven Gustav Klimt paintings from the Neue Galerie's collection hang in one; 40 drawings hang in another. That's it. And though several of the paintings are undeniably engaging–The Dancer, for instance, above, and Adele Bloch-Bauer I, at top, are two excellent examples of Klimt's signature portraits, with floating, often gilded shapes and spirals all but enveloping his subject–there's nothing here that will add to your understanding or appreciation of the man. As for the drawings, well, they're certainly accomplished, and some are even kind of sexy, but the Neue Galerie keeps this room so dark it was kind of difficult to really see what was going on. Really, our favorite part of the Neue Galerie's Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Celebration exhibition was the many large photographs of the artist himself, smiling, handsome, bearded, and looking all proto-hippie in his floor-length smock. But even if you linger before each object, and go through through the whole exhibition twice, it will take you 15 minutes, tops.  

Photograph of Gustav Klimt with a cat at the 150th Anniversary Celebration exhibition at Neue Galerie.

Gustav Klimt: 150th Anniversary Celebration, at the Neue Galerie details

The Neue Galerie's 150th birthday celebration of Gustav Klimt will be on view until August 27. The Neue Galerie is located on the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, and is open on Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information please see the Neue Galerie website, here

Posted in NYC Events | Tagged