Have you ever seen walking works of art? Or looked underneath the layers of a famous painting? Now you can, at the Lower Belvedere. Instagramers Austria was invited to see and photograph two fascinating exhibitions currently on in the halls of the Belvedere Museum: Donna Huanca – Piedra Quemada, a multi-media installation involving all your senses; and Egon Schiele – the Making of a Collection. What is interesting is that, although their styles are very different, both Donna Huanca and Egon Schiele´s works show the human body in unusual and very colorful ways.
A strange new world
In Donna Huanca´s performance art installation, Piedra Quemada (“burnt stone”), two painted models are present all day, independently interacting with their artificial environment, but not with the visitors, untouchable, still or slowly moving, statuesque and yet alive. This is the first solo presentation of the Bolivian-American artist Donna Huanca. She uses sculpture, painting, sound, video, and live models to form a strange new fantasy world. This exhibition is beyond anything I had previously experienced, and certainly very novel for the venerable Belvedere. Before the instawalk, I had seen its opening at the end of September – for that occasion, they had 12 painted models, quite a sight to behold.
When you enter the first hall of the extensive Donna Huanca exhibition, you are stunned by the room´s white brightness. There are scultptures by the artist, but also classical plaster statues of idealized bodies – while the models are painted in bright colors and sometimes wrapped in bits of fabric. The pristine white walls are smudged by color smears from the painted models.
Huanca fabricates her sculptures from different materials, such as fabric, plexiglass, latex, and even hair pieces in long braids (I was reminded of the Rapunzel fairytale).
We were told that it takes an hour every morning for the models to be painted (and it probably takes them that long to get all the paint off their bodies and out of their hair when they leave at the end of the museum day). I felt slightly voyeuristic, a bit disconcerted, and also fascinated, staring at these beautiful living sculptures who completely ignore you.
As you walk along to the other rooms, the light situation changes, and it becomes progressively darker – symbolizing perhaps the change from day to dusk. Our wonderful museum guide, art expert Markus Hübl, told me that in the last room there is even a scent aroma, although I have to admit I did not notice or could not tell what it was. In any case, I liked being immersed in the sensory experience of color, sound and shapes that Donna Huanca has created here.
Egon Schiele revealed
2018 marks 100 years since Egon Schiele sadly died of the Spanish flu at a very young age. Hence a number of museums have dedicated retrospective exhibitions to this famous painter of the Viennese Modernism period. Egon Schiele was unique in his day, for the first time showing the human body in ways previously unseen. His depictions are unapologetic, unveiled, sometimes distorted, other times openly erotic. The Belvedere has assembled a special exhibition of its in-house collection of the artist´s work.
Alongside the paintings the curator, Kerstin Jesse, presents new research insights into the creation of the paintings, based on an analysis of painting techniques and xrays of layers of paint that show what was underneath. For example, in a famous portrait of Schiele´s wife, in the original version she wore a colorful patchwork type skirt, as shown in a digital reconstruction (see photo below). In the version we know, he muted the colors of the skirt and changed he top colour to blue. What is also interesting is that Schiele may have been influenced in the composition by an earlier painting of Anton Faistauer of a sitting woman in a blue blouse. It is shown side by side with Schiele´s original here.
I sincerely want to thank Instagramers Austria and the Belvedere Museum for the opportunity to visit and photograph these two exhibitions, and Markus Hübl for his always fascinating insights.
The Egon Schiele exhibition runs until 17 February 2019. Donna Huanca`s Piedra Quemada ends on 6 January 2019, so hurry and don´t miss it!