This year marks a special anniversary for Vienna, as it was 100 years ago that the city’s greatest modernists died: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner, and Koloman Moser.
You’ll find plenty of exhibitions on offer to celebrate these great artists over the year, but if you happen to be a fan of Klimt you might not know which museum to pick. After spending the week in Vienna researching its museums for a guidebook I am working on, here is your comprehensive guide to getting the best Klimt on your visit.
You’ll find Klimt’s most famous work hung up in this historic palace once belonging to the Prince Eugene of Savoy. The palace itself is a work of art, with marble halls, gilded mirrors and Atlas figures propping up columns, but the crowds come for the work hanging on the walls – or rather one painting: Klimt’s “The Kiss”.
There is even a room to the side where you can take your Klimt “selfie” if you really want. “The Kiss” is not the only Klimt on display, and it’s worth stopping by the gold-glinted “Judith”, a sensual work of art, embossed with Klimt’s classic gold accents and seductive female figure. If you only have one museum and you’re a die-hard Klimt fan, then the Belvedere has your name on it.
Klimt was one of the founders of the Secession, a building that was considered ugly for its modernist
design and its golden dome nicknamed the “Golden Cabbage”. Right now, the Secession may be in the middle of being renovated (and for 100 Euros you could add a restored gold leave to its intricate dome). Today it’s still a forum for avant-garde art, but as a Klimt lover you’ll want to head down into the basement to the Beethoven Frieze.
The frieze is on permanent display and looks kind of unfinished, but worth the visit for its stunning allegorical depictions accented with gold and real gems. The whole work weighs about four tons. It not only references Biblical and mythological concepts, but also delves into Klimt’s own psychological issues and insecurities. The Beethoven Frieze is a pictorial symphony and you could spend an hour tracing through its details.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum
Any art lover should pay a visit to Vienna’s magical Kunsthistorisches Museum, especially for its incredible collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art – and that’s not to mention the setting of the place.
However, while its fine arts stick with pre-19th century art from Titian to Bruegel you’ll find some nuggets for the die-hard Klimt fan.
The first Klimt comes in an unusual location, somewhere between Egypt and Greece, set among the statues of perfect male beauty you’ll find the Naked Truth staring back at you.
The next prize lies on the walls, which you can now access thanks to a special bridge that gets you close to Klimt’s Egyptian inspired frescoes just above the cafe at museum.
Even if you come for Gustav only, expect to spend hours in this incredible museum from its antiquities and its cabinet of curiosities once belonging to the Habsburg family.
The Leopold Museum
The Leopold is the shining star in the MuseumsQuartier, with an incredible collection of Viennese art particularly from the 1900s. The artist’s Death and Life painting is certainly one of the show stoppers in this gallery dedicated to Austrian art.
However, the Leopold has more art by the artist’s contemporaries as well, such as Schiele and Moser, so if you want to learn a little bit about the artistic scene going on at the time the exhibition is worth it.
You can catch a glimpse of Klimt all over Vienna, whether it’s in the souvenir shops or the real deal hidden in theater frescoes. One thing for sure is you can find traces to Vienna’s golden boy all across the city.