Gottfried Helnwein

Sleep of Reason

Koblenz, Ludwig Museum
dal 11 Aprile al 30 Maggio 2021

The exhibition

Gottfried Helnwein is known for his hyper-realistic images and his photo portraits of celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Marilyn Manson and the band Rammstein. In his provocative images, he articulates themes of violence and abuse in ways that are as compelling as they are shocking. In particular, children, whose innocence, naivety and tenderness he brings into focus, are projection surfaces for him.

Above all, the culture of European Romanticism provides him with iconographic motifs and subjects, especially its black side, with its abysses of the soul lost in nightmares, in the disturbing and in its own dramaturgy of fear and cruelty. There are direct quotations from Caspar David Friederich, Johann Heinrich Füssli, Arnold Böcklin, to the emphatically Christian in early Romanticism and to Richard Wagner’s “Gesamtkunstwerk”. From Wagner and Nietzsche, a stringent arc develops to Hitler’s propaganda machinery, the staged epic mass marches of the SS, and leads in Helnwein’s case not least to his great Carl Barks admiration, whereby he himself fits Mickey Mouse into the context of Nazi rule.

The exhibition is dedicated for the first time to this level of reflection in Helnwein’s work and first summarizes those dark paintings in which the image is developed out of blackness and deep blue (as a romantic keynote) and leads over to the atrocities of the Nazi regime, in that in particular the experiments on imprisoned persons and those segregated into psychiatric wards underpin the racial ideology. The central motif of almost all of Helnwein’s pictures is the innocent child, above all defenselessly at the mercy of adults. The childlike nature, from the innocence of the early years to young girls who themselves take up arms in his more recent works, shows differentiated facets of the soul that are stirring, emotionally gripping, and technically brilliantly realized.

The catalogue

Gottfried Helnwein has long been a recognized figure on the world art scene and more than ever his darkly visionary portrayals of pain, abuse and torture are proving to be true. Helnwein transfers these on the basis of an extensive pictorial knowledge that draws in particular on European Romanticism, but at the same time seamlessly transitions to the propaganda machinery of the Nazi dictatorship and the harmless duck cosmos of the famous Disney cartoonist Carl Barks.
The trivial breaks the noble and knocks the supposedly adorable off its pedestal. Helnwein proves to be a clever strategist here, and a master of quoting and referencing unfamiliar points of view.

Koblenz, Ludwig Museum, April - May 2021
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, June - July 2021


Sleep of Reason

  € 35,00  € 33,25