Oct 15, 2013
250 000 Visitors Saw the Helnwein-Retrospective at the Albertina Museum
The Helnwein retrospective was the most successful exhibition of a living artist in the history of the Albertina.
Dec 1, 2004
San Francisco Fine Arts Museums
Palace of the Legion of Honor
'The Child' Exhibition - 130,000 VISITORS- The reviews
Summary of reviews and texts
Adults bring a trunkful of contradictory cultural baggage to any representations of children. That's what makes the work of Helnwein so powerful. In his show, "The Child," at the Legion of Honor (of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums), deformed infants and bandaged children stir feelings of pity, defiance and uneasiness about exploitation. There's an ambiguously disturbing painting of a girl aiming a gun into an open refrigerator and another of a bare-breasted mother and child surrounded by Aryan soldiers. But the most haunting images may be the ones of children who seem strangely oblivious to the adult gaze. Some of Helnwein's children peer right past the onlooker. Others sleep, dreaming of anything but us behind their silky eyelids. And some, like the enormous, half- shadowed "Head of a Child" at the Legion, see straight through us with cloudless, infinite blue eyes. Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle, 17. November 2004
Dec 26, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic
CRITICS CHOICES 2004 - Helnwein
Arts and culture
TOP 10 The Gottfried Helnwein exhibition "The Child" at the Palace of the Legion of Honor (San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, July) was chosen as the most important show of a contemporary artist in 2004. "In the first of two shows (the other at the Modernism Gallery in November), Helnwein's large format, photo-realist images of children of various demeanors boldly probed the subconscious. Innocence, sexuality, victimization and haunting self-possession surge and flicker in Helnwein's unnerving work."
Mar 1, 2005
Volume 104/Number 3
REVIEW: Gottfried Helnwein, San Francisco
A highly satisfying survey of his work at the Legion of Honor museum titled "The Child" was dominated by images of children, as was a current exhibition of his more recent work at Modernism.
Dec 28, 2012
The True Impact of Violence On Childhood? Why Every American Ought To See The Paintings Of Gottfried Helnwein.
Two days after the Sandy Hook school massacre, a survival gear company called Black Dragon Tactical composed a new slogan to promote sales of armored backpack inserts. “Arm the teachers,” the company declared on Facebook. “In the meantime, bulletproof the kids.”... The question may be political, but the keenest response is to be found in a museum in Mexico City, the Museo Nacional de San Carlos, at a retrospective of paintings and photographs by the Austrian-American artist Gottfried Helnwein. Helnwein’s extraordinary work depicts the fragile innocence of children. Devoid of grown-up sentimentalism, his images can be overwhelming, especially those that show how that innocence falters in an adult world.
Sep 14, 2008
The Sunday Times
Bloodied but Unbowed
Fury greeted Gottfried Helnwein's Waterford Installation, but his art deals in public trauma, says Gerry McCarthy
Again and again, he has painted children in brutal, violent settings. He has used Christian iconography to depict Nazi officers, and juxtaposed rampaging soldiers with Images of childhood innocence. Visceral reactions come with the territory: one Installation in Cologne was physically attacked by neo Nazis. And yet, he says, he does not set out to shock. "Shock is a useless effect," he says. "Somebody in shock is completely useless. I want to make somebody think." Instead, Helnwein's work speaks of a deep psychological need for meaning, even as it takes the form of violence and confrontation. Such an approach is rooted in the uneasy silences of growing up in post-war Austria and the shattered illusions of his early adult life, yet is still infused with an uneasy idealism. His art has brought him material rewards. Over the past 30 years, he has become an art superstar. His paintings and photographs command large prices. As he talks in his Co Tipperary castle, garbed in black clothes and dark glasses, Helnwein has the air of a veteran rock star and the lifestyle to match it.
Oct 2, 2014
Astonishing photo-realistic portraits
Ones to Watch
The images you are about to see may shock or confound you. Gottfried Helnwein frequently depicts children in his gigantic, mesmerizing portraits, along with "low culture" icons including Donald Duck, with the loss of childhood innocence as a reoccurring theme.
May 30, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Arts & Culture
Gottfried Helnwein - Dark Inspiration
The artist, who has taken on war crimes, Catholicism and the Holocaust in his works, is inspired by the city.
Some might think that Los Angeles - its unrelenting sun, its one-step-away-from-reality perch -- is an incongruous place for someone like Helnwein. What he creates, regardless the medium - watercolor, oil, photography, performance art, sculpture - is a thorny psychological excursion into our sublimated self, our obscured corners and dark humors. His explorations into war crimes, Catholicism, disfigurement and the Holocaust are both unflinching and surgical. His work is in museum collections around the world, including those of LACMA and the Smithsonian, and critics have labeled it grotesque, fearless, disturbing and "veer[ing] dangerously close to offensive." People are surprised, he says, when they discern that he doesn't "seem insane."
Aug 5, 2001
The Sunday Times
The disturbing Work of Helnwein comes to Ireland Helnwein is a headline artist who works in tight sound bites on a very large scale. The works brand themselves with proof of his technical know-how in various media and are endorsed by the coolest celebrities of his generation. So much for the cover-story, so what lies within? Headlines lure you into stories that make you want to cry, smile or help to change the world. But when they stop at your own skin, you can get a sinking feeling, a sense of the bigness and badness outside and the impossibility of change.
Apr 10, 2006
New Statesman, UK
"Face it" Helnwein exhibition at Lentos Museum of Modern Art Linz
Gottfried Helnwein's latest exhibition, "Face It", is the artist's first show in his native Austria since 1985. A retrospective of 40 works from the 1970s to the present, it is more shocking than the Royal Academy's infamous "Sensation" of 1997. Helnwein aims to disturb not with, say, an elephant-dung Madonna, as Chris Ofili did then, but with a far more controversial Virgin. Of all his paintings, the most disturbing is Epiphany (1996), for which he dips into our collective memory of Christianity's most famous birth. This Austrian Catholic Nativity scene has no magi bearing gifts. Madonna and child are encircled by five respectful Waffen SS officers palpably in awe of the idealised, kitsch-blonde Virgin. The Christ toddler, who stands on Mary's lap, stares defiantly out of the canvas. Helnwein's baby Jesus is Adolf Hitler.
Nov 1, 2000
Celebrating 30 Years
'The Darker Side of Playland: Childhood Imagery from the Logan Collection' at SFMOMA
In 'The Darker Side of Playland', the endearing cuteness of beloved toys and cartoon characters turns menacing and monstrous. Much of the work has the quality of childhood nightmares. In those dreams, long before any adult understanding of the specific pains and evils that live holds, the familiar and comforting objects and images of a child's world are rent with something untoward. For children, not understanding what really to be afraid of, these dreams portend some pain and disturbance lurking into the landscape. Perhaps nothing in the exhibition exemplifies this better than Gottfried Helnwein's 'Mickey'. His portrait of Disney's favotite mouse occupies an entire wall of the gallery; rendered from an oblique angle, his jaunty, ingenuous visage looks somehow sneaky and suspicious. His broad smile, encasing a row of gleaming teeth, seems more a snarl or leer. This is Mickey as Mr. Hyde, his hidden other self now disturbingly revealed. Helnwein's Mickey is painted in shades of gray, as if pictured on an old black-and-white TV set. We are meant to be transported to the flickering edges of our own childhood memories in a time imaginably more blameless, crime-less and guiltless. But Mickey's terrifying demeanor hints of things to come.
Oct 16, 2012
Interview with Gottfried Helnwein
GH: People are constantly bombarded with millions of images of the daily horror from around the world, through mass media, television, internet, which makes us feel helpless, because it tells us there is nothing we can do about it. Art is the exact opposite; with art you can approach any subject, no matter how horrible, because aesthetics can transcend and transform any uglyness, into something beautiful, it can elevate, inspire and might be able to open doors to understanding. My images always dealt with what's happening around me, I wasn’t making things up. From early childhood on when I looked at people around me I perceived them as suffering in some way, without being conscious about it. I thought that most people seemed to be somewhat damaged , and that’s what I started to show in my paintings.
Sep 2, 2010
New York Times
Opening Sept. 16 at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery, ‘‘Gottfried Helnwein: I Was a Child’’
... his startling body of work: macabre paintings with photographic resonance played out on a grand scale and often in public settings. Throughout his career, Helnwein has glided easily between watercolor, oil and installation work, but his big subject has always been childhood, and not the happy sort. With titles like ‘‘The Murmur of the Innocents’’ and ‘‘God of Sub-Humans,’’ these works — executed with obsessive, old-master-worthy technique — can be as bludgeoning as, say, a Rammstein riff, but you can’t take your eyes off them.
Jun 4, 2006
Lentos Museum of Modern Art, Linz
Summary of reviews and texts
Face it - Works by Gottfried Helnwein
FACE IT - The Exhibition Reviews
Konsequent und virtuos. Technische Meisterschaft und auch die Konsequenz einer packenden sozialkritischen Thematik offenbaren sich in dieser Ausstellung: Gewalt, Schmerz, Verletzung werden dargestellt. Den Körper ebenso wie die Psyche betreffend. Helnwein dokumentiert hier in Linz einen künstlerischen Reifegrad, der eine weitere Steigerung kaum vorstellbar macht. Seine Eingriffe sind von einer schmerzhaften Unmittelbarkeit, deren emotionale Energie weit über die großen Bildformate hinaus den Raum und sein Publikum ergreift. (Irene Judmayer - Oberösterreichische Nachrichten)
Feb 14, 2006
Portraits by Steven Klein
The Bride wore Purple
Rock-Star Wedding at Helnwein's Irish Castle
The nuptials of schock rocker Marilyn Manson and burlesque queen Dita Von Teese were never going to be conventional, but as Hamish Bowles discovered as he tracked the celebrations from Los Angeles to Tipperary, they were also filled with high drama and high style. ... The following afternoon our cars are trundling through the darkening landscape to Helnwein's baronial castle, a forbidding Hammer House of Horror edifice complete with turrets, crenellations, and a lone bagpiper.
Aug 9, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Art Critic
Dark and Detached, the Art of Gottfried Helnwein demands a response
Aug 9, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Art Critic
Dark and detached, the art of Gottfried Helnwein demands a response.
The Child: Works by Gottfried Helnwein at San Francisco Fine Arts museums, Palace of the Legion of Honor.
Helnwein's preoccupation with the dark side of modern history, including its abuse of images, has never left him. He did a whole series of paintings (the Legion show includes a couple) so dark as to appear imageless. But he intended them not as mirrors of dark times but as counterthrusts to the aggressive reach of so much contemporary culture. Despite the grotesquerie it contains, the Legion show also has elements of pathos. Helnwein nodded yes when asked whether he has made a theme of innocence. "It's a dangerous word, it's so abused and misused, but yes that's probably the basic essence of what I'm interested in." "As soon as somebody's grown up they have so many issues," he said. "When you look at a person -- what social level, what country they're from, what fashion they affect -- all this stuff comes in, but I'm interested in the stage of a human being where it's not so important whether it's a male or female, before we can tell any social background or anything, it's just ... abstract, almost." ...Probably few visitors will appreciate the detachment in Helnwein's work. They will more likely respond to his concern with the power of images. We willingly subject ourselves to their power every day without really understanding it. If nothing else, his pictures, no matter how confrontational, stand still and permit us, even defy us, to understand how they work upon us.
Aug 1, 2008
Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague
Curator: Peter Nedoma
Summary of reviews and texts
Angels Sleeping - The exhibition Reviews
Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague - Helnwein's images of pain and innocence won't let history sleep.
An alternative title to “Angels Sleeping” for this exhibition could be “All Hail to the Wounded Child,” as many of the works center on irreparably wounded children (both externally and internally) as the innocent victims of war. The children in Helnwien’s works may also represent the lost or destroyed child in all of us, not only as victims of war, but as victims of modern society, with all its mindless violence and perverse attraction to aggressive mobs and disturbances. If there were a soundtrack to this exhibition, it would be a long, endless scream. Tony Ozuna, The Prague Post, 02. July 2008
Nov 5, 2003
Ninth November Night
A Documentary about the Art of Gottfried Helnwein
…when someone is willing to take on the sadness, the irony, the ugliness and the beauty in the kind of way that Helnwein does.
Sean Penn talks about the Art of Gottfried Helnwein
"Well, the world is a haunted house, and Helnwein at times is our tour guide through it. I think in anything that is really relevant and emotional art, there is some kind of a mirror that people experience. I don't think that you can recognize a feeling from something that you look at unless it's part of yourself, and so when someone is willing to take on the sadness, the irony, the ugliness and the beauty in the kind of way that Gottfried Helnwein does. Not all of Gottfried's work is on a canvas. A lot of it is the way he's approached life. And it doesn't take someone knowing him to know that. You take one look at the paintings and you say "this guy has been around." You can't sit in a closet - and create this. This level of work is earned." Sean Penn
Oct 1, 2004
Volume 35, Issue 8
Gottfried Helnwein at the Legion of Honor
Helnwein is the next generation’s final ally, a skilled provocateur forcing us to confront the legacy we have bequeathed upon our children. Helnwein is our chronicler, our conscience, the antidote to our failing memories. He refuses to let us forget…
Gottfried Helnwein’s first one-man exhibition at a major American museum is long overdue. 35 years in the making, “The Child” is a collection of more than fifty drawings, watercolors, photographs, and paintings (several monumental in size). It’s also a show that shocks, and among the crowds thronging to see it, some patrons will be put off: the day I attended, a few seemed downright uncomfortable, if not hostile, toward the work. This is fine. Art should shock, and provoke, and make us feel queasy sometimes. “The Child” achieves all three, but also startles us with aching beauty, bedazzles us with painterly skill, and injects a necessary perspective into the culture’s collective conscience.
More Helnwein Sites
back to the top