“As a person I am not extra interesting” – Klimt

April 2, 2012

By Herwig Prammer

When you walk through central Vienna now you get the impression there are almost no other cultural events this year besides Gustav Klimt’s 150th birthday anniversary. Posters, postcards, sketch books, scarves, curtains, neck ties and gloves, umbrellas, cups and glasses, bottles and plates, boxes and containers on every corner are covered with his paintings. Copies of “The Kiss” even beautify toilet seats!

Originally I wanted to look at how Vienna pays tribute to this important Austrian “Wiener Jugendstil” (parallel to “Art Nouveau” in France) artist. But the growth of tacky commercialization of Klimt’s art has begun to taken center stage.

I learned this is mostly because the copyright time limit for Klimt’s art has recently run out and is partly due to his trend-setting work just being simply popular.

I read that Klimt never spoke much about his work; his most famous comment about himself being: “Ich bin als Person nicht extra interessant” – “As a person I am not extra interesting.” But he must have been something of a modern pop star.

Vienna is of course doing its cultural duty. On one hand you can now stand on a specially constructed platform in front of Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” in the fantastic Secession building and see these extraordinary paintings at eye level for the first time, and just think “wow!”

And on the other hand, you can gaze stunned at the display windows of the souvenir shops in the city, and literally face the worst of Klimt! There is even a special exhibition at the Wien Museum, where organizers are looking for the most absurd and bizarre Klimt-products. So for all you lovers of kitsch out there… I certainly think I will be there to take pictures — NOT to buy anything though.

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