After the incredible success of the 2018/2019 Bruegel exhibition, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) comes up with another premiere: this is the first-ever exhibition of Mark Rothko’s works in Austria.
- Presents 40+ works from across four decades of Rothko’s life
- Runs March 12 to June 30, 2019
- See also:
- Current modern art exhibitions in Vienna
What’s it all about?
At first glance, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna seems an unlikely setting for a more contemporary artist like Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970). After all, it’s largely famous for its antiquities and old masters. But that’s precisely why the exhibition makes sense.
Rothko drew much inspiration from the same art and artists that form the core of the museum’s collections. His contemporary approaches, however innovative or abstract, developed within an understanding of what came before.
He had, for example, a strong interest in mythology. In 1943, he noted:
If our titles recall the known myths of antiquity, we have used them again because they are the eternal symbols upon which we must fall back to express basic psychological ideas.
Rothko also travelled extensively in Europe, visiting such cities as Paris, Venice, Rome and Florence to immerse himself in the works and techniques of the past. Michelangelo’s Laurentian library left a lasting impression, for example, as did Fra Angelico’s frescoes at San Marco.
The exhibition includes over 40 works, many loaned from the Rothko family itself and such prestigious institutions as the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
The paintings reveal Rothko’s artistic development from the 1930s through to the last decade of his life. By drawing a clear connection between his influences and interests and his creative output, they honour the painter’s own philosophy:
Since I have a deep sense of responsibility for the life my pictures will lead out in the world, I will with gratitude accept any form of their exposition in which their life and meaning can be maintained
This anchoring of the exhibition in the creative context of the artwork presented is seen, for example, in figurative works drawing on classical mythology and religious iconography. A gallery of Rothko’s later classic paintings reveals how he incorporated the techniques of Italian and Dutch masters in his art.
The exhibition also features the Seagram Mural Studies, originally commissioned for the upscale Four Seasons restaurant in New York (Rothko withdrew from the contract). He famously said of the murals:
I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room.
Having seen them, I wouldn’t say the murals would have ruined appetites. But they certainly wouldn’t have encouraged them.
Dates, tickets & tips
The Rothko exhibition runs from Tuesday March 12 to Sunday, June 30, 2019.
Access the exhibition with a normal entrance ticket to the Kunsthistorisches Museum or using, for example, a Vienna Pass (see my review).
How to get to the Rothko exhibition
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is easily reached alongside the giant Ring boulevard that encircles the city centre.
Subway: Take the U2 or U3 line to the Volkstheater station
Tram: Take lines D, 71, 46, 49 or 2 to Ring/Volkstheater
Bus: Line 48A to Ring/Volkstheater
Address: Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna