Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900

A major highlight of Liverpool 2008 (which I’d been looking forward to but, I’m sad to say, has failed to set my world alight), Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900 is something special. And it’s all the better for taking a wider remit than the great master to explore the wider culture of the Viennese Secession.

Star of the show is the full size reconstruction of the Beethoven Frieze, to which Tate Liverpool’s ground floor gallery has been dedicated, (so the main highlight comes first, which is a little odd). We’d seen the real thing at the Secession Building in Vienna, where it is that city’s cultural highlight. It works very well here in Liverpool, where it seems more approachable.

Moving on to the fourth floor galleries, works are displayed in a manner designed to approximate their original presentation; often a glimpse of a patron’s apartment, like a music room commissioned from Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Acknowledging the influence of patrons and the work of others, the exhibition does far more than simply set Klimt in context. It helps fulfil the Secession’s goal of Gesamtkunstwerk, or a synthesis of all arts that recognises mutual influences and escapes the stuffier academic theories of the time.
Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900 is at Tate Liverpool until 31 August 2008.

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