2012 is the 150th anniversary of Gustav Klimt

2012 is the 150th anniversary of Gustav Klimt. Until mid 2010 Nina Levett was rather more interested in architectural use of illustration in contemporary projects as are published by Hong Kong based editor Victionary and in the works of contemporary designers such as Hella Jongerius or Jaime Hayon.

One and a half years ago when Thomas Geisler asked Levett wanted to be part of the Design Criminals exhibition that was to be held in the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts and that was to be curated by Sam Jacob of www.fat.co.uk something changed. Writing to the museum and receiving emails from the museum while she was in Malaysia and Singapore on her wedding trip was one of the rare occasions that she was being questioned about what she was doing and where she was heading. One of the main concerns of  the curator was whether she regarded what she did as “fine art” or “design” or “applied art”. One thing that was triggered by the discussion with him was that she became increasingly interested in the PURPOSE of what she was doing. This is when her interest for Klimt sparked off.

In the last year many things have changed. Her work is now in the permanent collection of the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna (MAK). With the advent of a new leadership in the MAK Levett also had the chance to get to know a lot of what was being planned there. She also got a good idea of the collection of works and the structuring of the collections as to the ideas about the “ideal museum” of Gottfried Semper.

The research Nina Levett recently conducted on Gustav Klimt (after learning that 2021 was to be the Klimt year and that the MAK – of which she now feel part – would be concentrating some of its efforts to his anniversary). First she went to see an exhibition where she learned that Gustav Klimt cooperated with Josef Hoffmann, e.g. developing a hanging system for his paintings. The paintings were not merely seen as art, but they were seen as part of the architecture of the room. At this stage Nina Levett began to identify with Klimt/Hoffmanns view of the Gesamtkunstwerk because similarly to their view she never considered her moveable wallpapers to be paintings but as wall-panels serving a similar decorative purpose as wallpapers. The primary intention of her work remains architectural/ornamental/aesthetic and not artistic.

The identification with Klimt goes a lot further when we look what is to be seen on his artworks. In his landscape paintings Klimt did not depict people. The landscape were not using narrative elements such as people. Klimt’s portraits are not combined with landscape painting or nature in their background but with ornaments or scenery which is so abstract that the background and the portraits melt as though they were all flat elements. Nina Levett also concentrate on the human form. In her portraits there is no background or an ornamented background. She avoids landscape painting altogether.

Copyright of the pictures above lies with the Belvedere/Gustav Klimt/respective photographers/artists. The pictures were photographed using an Iphone from newspaper articles and books.

For further reading click here for a group interview with Nina Levett in the daily newspaper “Die Presse” about Gustav Klimt by Daniel Kalt.

This post is also available in: German