In conversation with director Renée Price on the promotion and preservation of a foreign culture in the United States through art and crafts
New York’s Neue Galerie, the museum devoted to Austrian and German art, is known for its permanent collection containing the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1907). Among temporary exhibitions that have succeded over the years, Berlin Metropolis illustrated how Berlin became the epicenter for culture in Europe between the First and Second World Wars; The Self Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann, examined how German and Austrian painters innovated the genre; and Focus, Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry, focused on the craftsmanship and creativity behind the art of jewelry-making.
Neue Galerie also houses a design shop, a bookstore, and a café, nowhere near the counterparts you can find in museums of comparable scopes. «When we founded the museum in 2001, the bookstore and design shop were designed to resemble the style of a grand hotel’s boutique jewelry store» director Renée Price explains. «Our concept was to convey a sense of luxury, yet retain accessibility for all visitors of the museum».
The shop showcases jewels by A. E. Köchert, the jewelers who resided at the court of the Austrian Emperor (who commissioned them the Eternity Ring), and a line called The Masterpiece Collection by First Edition, consisting in historical jewels recreated by the artists of Wiener Werkstätte by following the original designs: the collection comprises works by Josef Hoffmann such as a Malachite brooch adorned with a foliage pattern, and a pair of cufflinks encrusted with blue opal, green agate, red agate, lapis lazuli, jade, or tiger’s eye, both designed by Gustav Klimt. The visions of Vienna-born Gustav Klimt served as muse for jewelry for decades, as even haute-bohemian designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac created a series of “evil eye” pieces for Neue Galerie inspired by his painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
For the exhibition centered on Viennese photographer Madame D’Ora, Neue Galerie collaborated with milliner Stephen Jones to release a series of couture hats inspired by the glamour D’Ora photographed between the beginning of her career in 1907 and the mid-Fifties. The design shop also promoted collaborations with Asian designers, resulting for example in Munnu Kasliwal’s cuffs with a spiral motif, inspired by Klimt’s use of gold foil and paint, and Han Feng’s kimonos adorned with Art Nouveau patterns designed in the early 1900s (such as Grünfink, dating back to 1910).
In its effort to promote German and Austrian art and history in all forms, Neue Galerie decided to release a line of fitness equipment, such as hand-stitched leather weights and a jump rope with oiled walnut handles, and a range of lipsticks developed with the insight of Aerin Lauder, granddaughter of Estée Lauder – each of the lipsticks is a reference to an artwork. «Right before we opened the Otto Dix exhibition in 2010, I had the idea of creating a makeup line. We had managed to have Portrait of the Dancer Anita Berber (1925) on loan: she looks as if she’s going up in flames. Her dress is red, the background is red. She was the ultimate ‘woman in red’. I proposed my idea to Aerin Lauder and we developed the lipstick shade called Berlin Red – the case was shaped like a bullet, since Otto Dix was a soldier in World War I. The line sold out in a matter of days».
Other hues were Adele’s Kiss, inspired Klimt’s ‘woman in gold’; Neue Red, a sheer-matte crimson referencing the women portrayed by Madame D’Ora; and Geranium, whose shade replicates that of its omonimous flower and draws inspiration from the garden portrayed in Klimt’s Forester’s House in Weissenbach II. «The lipsticks are a way to wear the artwork and its era» concludes Price.
Café Sabarsky offers its own line of products too: among a range of German and Austrian specialties and mittel-European flavors, no item has received more appreciation than Alpine Dream, the herbal-tea blend designed in collaboration with Bellocq Tea Atelier. It contains wild ginger, balsam fir, sweet fern, green alder and arctic rose, as well as organic chamomile, mint, ginger and currant – its scent and flavor evoke the Alpine flora of the meadows of Tyrol.
The café is outfitted with a Bösendorfer grand piano, lighting fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, furniture by Adolf Loos, and banquettes upholstered with a 1912 Otto Wagner patterned fabric.Neue Galerie’s bookstore specializes in Austrian and German fiction, non-fiction, and art history. «Franz Kafka and Rainer Maria Rilke are household names at this point. But only we can suggest Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, which was first published in 1932» Price comments. «The book chronicles a privileged family in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, before the outbreak of World War I. It paints the portrait of a civilization in decline».IMAGE GALLERY
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