DRAWINGS FROM THE SABARSKY COLLECTION
29 January 2004 – 25 April 2004
Serge Sabarsky was born in Vienna in 1912 in a well-to-do family of Russian Jews and later emigrated to the United States during the Second World War. He started to collect works of German and Austrian expressionism in 1968, the year in which the Serge Sabarsky Gallery opened in New York on Madison Avenue and embarked on a fruitful trade in works by Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele and other artists of the expressionist current. Within a short time the gallery and its collection became established internationally, also thanks to Sabarsky’s skill in dealing with his clientele and an infallible nose for quality in the works he purchased. In 1986, after twenty years of business, Sabarsky decided to concentrate on the organization of exhibitions in the most prestigious museums of the world, comprised of his own incredible personal collection as well as important loans from private and public collections. The drawings on exhibit at the Pinacoteca Agnelli were purchased by Sabarsky directly from Klimt’s nephew in Vienna, and they are essential for understanding his turning point from an academic style to Symbolism, of which Klimt was a pioneer along with other secessionist artists.
Among the drawings proposed, particularly noteworthy are those done for the Beethoven Frieze in 1902 for the XIV exhibition of the Vienna Secession and dedicated to the great composer. For the secessionist artists it was the first work of total art. The exhibition was designed in such a way that every work of the 21 artists present was in perfect harmony with the others and with the entire layout. It included the use of music, a performance of the Hymn to Joy directed by Gustav Mahler on the opening day. The central hall rotated around a polychrome marble sculpture by Max Klinger, which depicted Beethoven in apotheosis, as though he were the incarnation of the human genius, suffering for all of humanity though soaring toward a glorious future. The frieze by Klimt, painted on three walls a total of 24 meters long, interprets the Ninth Symphony and the idea of reaching happiness and the redemption of man through art. The Frieze contained deliberately provocative themes and a few repugnant figures, such as the three Gorgons, which triggered a huge controversy. In fact the exhibition had few visitors and turned out to be a financial disaster. Today the Turin public has the opportunity to admire for the first time some of the drawings that were the origin of Klimt’s Frieze. One can recognize the figures of the adverse forces that oppose the artist-knight in his quest for happiness. The studies for the three Gorgons are also on display, as well as several drawings in preparation of the work, in which we find a rigorous and absolutely harmonious stylization.
The other drawings are equally impressive. Besides the sketches for the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer of 1907, visitors can also admire many drawings of female nudes, that show remarkable artistic spontaneity. Most of these sketches, light-handed and consisting of a few sinuous lines, are imbued with a strong erotic charge. With a pencil stroke, sometimes thin and elongated but more often voluminous and intricate, they achieve an immediacy that is almost unthinkable to those familiar with his paintings.
Exhibition organized by: Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli e GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in collaboration with the Serge Sabarsky Collection
The exhibition is produced by Fondazione Torino Musei – GAM
We would like to thank the Forum Austriaco di Cultura for its collaboration.