Wiener Secession: Close-up – GUSTAV KLIMT & GERWALD ROCKENSCHAUB – Plattform

March 23 – November 4, 2012

Gustav Klimt – Beethoven Frieze, Gerwald Rockenschaub – Plattform, Photo: Wolfgang Thaler

The Beethoven Frieze close up, as seen by conservators and artists

With the twin exhibition projects Close-up – Gustav Klimt ~ Gerwald Rockenschaub – Plattform, artist Gerwald Rockenschaub, the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments, and the conservators at Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts reflect on a key work from the period of artistic renewal at the dawn of the 20th century. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Klimt's birth, the Secession offers visitors a detailed look at the Beethoven Frieze, shedding both scientific and artistic light on this icon of cultural history.

Gustav Klimt – Beethoven Frieze, Gerwald Rockenschaub – Plattform, Photo: Wolfgang Thaler


The installation developed by Gerwald Rockenschaub for the room containing the Beethoven Frieze at the Secession allows visitors to perceive this work from unusual perspectives and new viewpoints. His sculptural intervention allows the frieze, that runs round the room at a height of between three and five meters, to be viewed at eye level for the first time. The two works, Klimt's Beethoven Frieze and Rockenschaub's Plattform, enter into dialog on equal terms. While the platform is functional, in its quality as an object it also asserts itself as an autonomous work. "Up to a certain point," says the artist, "the platform is also supposed to appear in this setting as a work of art, not just as purely functional architecture."

Gustav Klimt – Beethoven Frieze, Gerwald Rockenschaub – Plattform, Photo: Wolfgang Thaler

Plattform displays many features that are characteristic of Rockenschaub's artistic idiom: standard commercial materials, symbolic minimalism, monochrome surfaces. "Color," the artist says, "is pretty much the most minimal means of heightening object character. I dip into the paint bucket with few inhibitions, in a childishchildlike way." With his platform at the Secession, he also continues a series of installations begun in the late 1980s that use podiums, benches, curtains, or partitions to guide visitors around the exhibition, altering modes of perception and recoding the social and architectural space. "It is always a respectful approach, he emphasizes, "never an ironic commentary."

Gustav Klimt – Beethoven Frieze, Gerwald Rockenschaub – Plattform, Photo: Wolfgang Thaler

Biographical outline

Gerwald Rockenschaub (born 1952 in Linz) lives and works in Berlin.
Selected solo shows // 2012: Embrace Romance/Remodeled, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg; 2011: If I ever had the chance again, I'd probably do the same, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg; 2010: Gone is back again, House of Art Ceske Budejovice, Budweis; 2009: Promise vs. Reality, Villa Stuck, Munich.
Selected groups shows // 2012: Utopie Gesamtkunstwerk, Belvedere, 21er Haus, Vienna; 2011: Carte Blanche a John Armleder. All of the above, Palais de Tokyo, Paris; 2010: Bilder über Bilder, MUMOK, Vienna; Amsterdam – Berlin, De Service Garage, Amsterdam; maximal pleasure, Souterrain, Berlin; 2009: Don't Follow Me I'm Lost Too, Substitut, Berlin; Wiener Musterzimmer, Orangerie – Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna; Spacioux, Lambretto Art Project, Milan; 2007: Documenta 12, Kassel

Gustav Klimt – Beethoven Frieze, Poetry, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Photo: Wolfgang Thaler


The "close-up" on the Beethoven Frieze takes its cue from recent studies conducted by conservators and scientists. More than 25 years after the last conservation campaign, the current state has been documented in great detail, creating a basis for all future conservation measures. "One of our central concerns is comprehensive assessment and the establishment of an adequate concept in advance of future conservation work," says Dr. Friedrich Dahm (Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments), underlining the importance of this joint project by the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and the Secession: "For the Beethoven Frieze, we set top standards. Here, we're operating at the highest level."

The presentation in the foyer revolves around the copy of one section of the frieze (Poetry) made at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna to aid precise analysis of the processes by which both the picture support and Klimt's painting itself were originally made.

"Our activities here involve performing the complex task of preserving artworks and cultural artifacts for future generations in an authentic state, oriented as closely as possible towards the original, working against decay caused by processes of ageing and unintended damage," says Professor Wolfgang Baatz, director of the Institute of Conservation and Restoration at the Academy of Fine Arts: "This work allows artistic manifestations to continue making an impact, preserving cultural heritage for future generations."

Two accompanying films offer insights into the step-by-step construction of the replica and into the process of examining and assessing the masterpiece, added to which there are excerpts from the high-resolution digitization of the original made to document the work's condition in the long term. The presentation is rounded off by a look at the complex challenges met during the last conservation campaign of the original mural in the 1970s and '80s by the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments.

Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze (1902)

"But enough is enough, and a burning fury grips anyone who has preserved a modicum of decency. What should one say about this painted pornography? […] Such paintings might have been suitable for some subterranean establishment where pagan orgies are celebrated, but not for halls to which artists dare to invite respectable women and young girls." (S.G., April 22, 1902, Quoted from: Hermann Bahr, Gegen Klimt, 1903, p. 70)

"In the left-hand aisle, Gustav Klimt has painted a delightful frieze, so full of his bold, high-handed personality that it is only by exercising restraint that one does not declare this painting his most important work." (Ludwig Hevesi, Acht Jahre Secession, 1906, p. 392-393)

In the summer of 1901, the members of the Vienna Secession, which had been founded in 1897, decided to inaugurate a new type of exhibition to realize their concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk. The different arts— architecture, painting, sculpture, and music—were to be united under a common theme. Held only a year later under the direction of Josef Hoffmann, the Fourteenth Exhibition was a perfect example of the groundbreaking design championed by the Secession. Works from the Secession members formed a mise en scène centered around a statue of Beethoven by Max Klinger—including Klimt's mural, the Beethoven Frieze. The frieze was based on Richard Wagner's interpretation of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony celebrating humankind's yearning for happiness. The frieze shows how suffering humanity struggles to overcome hostile forces such as Sickness, Madness, Wantonness, and Intemperance, finally finding eternal bliss in art.

The Beethoven Frieze at the Secession: art education
Guided Tour: Gustav Klimt and the Beethoven Frieze Date: April 3, May 8, June 5, July 3, August 7, September 4, October 2, November 6, December 4. Time: 5 p.m., Suitable for all age groups.
Special Tour: Gustav Klimt and the Beethoven Frieze – Including treasures usually hidden in the extensive archives of the Vienna Secession. Date only on appointment.

In cooperation with:
Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Institut für Konservierung-Restaurierung

The Secession is supported by:
Erste Bank – Partner of the Secession
Wien Kultur
Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur
Friends of the Secession

Cooperation-, Mediapartners, Non-Cash Benefit:
hs art service austria GmbH
Ö1 Club
Schremser – Das Waldviertler Bier
Silver Server

Wiener Secession, Association of Visual Artists
Friedrichstraße 12, A-1010 Vienna

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