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"Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" at Neue Galerie New York

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Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer:
The Woman in Gold

Neue Galerie New York
Museum for German and Austrian Art
1048 Fifth Avenue
NYC, NY 10028

Press: Rebecca Lewis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 5, 2015

Read about Maria Altmann and Klimt’s “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”.

In anticipation of this exhibit, I finally saw Helen Mirren in “Woman in Gold”, the Weinstein Co./BBC film about Maria Altmann, who goes to legal war against the Austrian government to win back her rightfully inherited Gustav Klimt paintings (among artworks looted by the Nazis) of Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. I was eager to revisit “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, now safely displayed at the Neue Galerie, on upper Fifth Avenue. In 2006, Ronald Lauder purchased the portrait, for $135 million, from Ms. Altmann and her family, after the years-long court cases, including a hearing at the US Supreme Court. The remaining Klimt paintings, won in Ms. Altmann’s lawsuit, were sold at auction. This exhibit is titled “Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold”. Lines to enter the Neue Galerie wound around the corner and down a Fifth Avenue sidewalk. My first stop, once inside, was the lovely Café Fledermaus, where I dined on a Wiener Mélange (espresso with steamed milk and foam) and fresh, Matjes Herring on Wheat Bread with Apple Salad.

The small exhibit, which winds through just a few rooms on one floor, is packed with informative, sequential materials, telling the visitor the tale of young Maria and the wealthy, Jewish, Bloch-Bauer family in Pre-World War II Vienna. The next batch of documentary materials explains how the Nazis seized control of the Bloch-Bauer estate in 1938, including the Klimt paintings that had been commissioned by Ferdinand, two portraits of his adored wife, Adele, plus three landscapes. Photos and displays proceed to illustrate Ferdinand’s will, in which, prior to his family’s harrowing escape from Austria, he had bequeathed his entire collection to Maria and her sister, and the parallel story of Adele Bloch-Bauer’s prior bequest of the exact same paintings to the Austrian Gallery (Adele died at a young age, before the War.). Additional documents showcase the chronological milestones in retrieving the works. After World War II ended, Maria’s sister had been unable to restore ownership of the paintings. It was after her sister’s funeral that Maria found papers relating to their grand inheritance. Thanks to the legal prowess of Randy Schoenberg, an American lawyer, who, luckily, is the grandson of the highly popular, Austrian composer, Arnold Schoenberg, the long court battles in Austria and the US were eventually successful. Maria Altmann’s photographs, and those of all the key figures in the epic legal jousting, are quite fascinating.

However, due to the extreme popularity of this exhibit, that follows on the heels of the film, it was difficult to linger at any one document, with an endless line of visitors, anxious for their turns. Because the Neue Galerie is housed in a 1914 Carrère & Hastings, landmark mansion, the exhibit rooms can become crowded. But, the Neue Galerie experiences are always well worth the time and effort. One can view, on any day the Neue Galerie is open to the public, “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907, oil, silver, and gold on canvas), an exquisite work on permanent display. Klimt, who was sponsored and lauded by the sugar magnate and arts patron, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, took three years to complete this portrait. Adele’s ingénue face and arms peek through layers of golden geometrics and a collage-like layering of contrasting textures and designs. Klimt’s unique, repetitive shapes combine to outline Adele’s trim figure, as well as a larger still life figure in the background. The aura is an exotic motif, with numerous eyes, rectangles, circles, squares, swirls, and marbleizing. Yet, Adele’s porcelain skin and features radiate through the luscious luminosity. I plan to return soon to Neue Galerie for an Upcoming Exhibit, “Berlin Metropolis: 1918-1933”, which will run October 1 through January 4, 2016. And, of course, I’ll revisit Ms. Bloch-Bauer, in gold.

Gustav KLIMT (1862-1918)
Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907
Oil, silver, and gold on canvas
Neue Galerie New York
This acquisition made available in part through the generosity of
the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer
© 2015 Neue Galerie New York

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Adele Bloch-Bauer Seated in an Armchair Facing Forward,
Resting Her Temple on Her Right Hand
, 1903
Black chalk on paper
© 2015 Neue Galerie New York

Gustav Klimt, 1917 Photograph
Photograph by Moritz Nähr
© 2015 Neue Galerie, New York

Adele Bloch-Bauer, ca. 1915 Photograph
© 2015 Neue Galerie, New York

Palais Bloch-Bauer in Vienna, Elisabethstrasse 18
© 2015 Neue Galerie, New York

Maria Altmann, Vienna
Photograph, 1938
© 2015 Neue Galerie, New York

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at