Austria's LFA will bring its finest collections to the 10th West Bund Art & Design
Austria's Leopold Fine Arts will exhibit masterpieces by world-renowned artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Günter Brus, Arnulf Rainer, and Chinese independent artist Mianhua at the 10th West Bund Art & Design in November.
In October, LFA announced that it would represent Mianhua and exhibit her work in Europe.
LFA's founder, Rudolf Leopold, is no stranger to the art of Schiele and Klimt, having amassed the world's biggest Schiele collection through perseverance and a singular artistic vision.
In order to house priceless artworks, Leopold donated more than 5,000 works of art from his collection to the Leopold Museum Foundation, which the Republic of Austria and the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) co-founded. The Leopold Museum opened in Vienna in 2001, and a substantial portion of the collection is still housed in the Leopold Private Collection.
We spoke with Nikolaus Leopold, founder of Leopold Fine Arts.
Q: You represent a prominent European art family. It is well known that your family donated the Leopold Museum in Vienna to the state. Rudolf Leopold, your grandfather, was one of the most influential art collectors in the world. What is the most remarkable aspect of Leopold Fine Arts, in your opinion? What comprises the spiritual inheritance of the family?
A: My grandfather Rudolf Leopold was an influential figure in the art world of the 20th century. He constantly surrounded himself with artists in order to discuss the significance of art in society. It was never about art. For him, understanding the intrinsic process behind creating art, especially its craftsmanship, was of utmost importance. By aspiring to comprehend the creation of art at its core, he himself was considered an artist.
We strive to maintain and continue his legacy. One of the unique features of Leopold Fine Arts is the access to and management of a part of the Leopold Private Collection. Every object passed the scrutiny of Rudolf Leopold. It includes works from important Austrians as well as international artists.
Aside from that, Leopold Fine Arts is true to the family spirit: We are dedicated to discovering and presenting the work and spiritual core of unique artists, such as the outstanding artworks of the Chinese contemporary artist Mianhua. We are very honored to partner with her.
Q: Is Mianhua the first Chinese artist that LFA is representing?
A: Yes, Mianhua is the first Chinese artist with whom Leopold Fine Arts has collaborated. We are thrilled to present her work at this year's West Bund Art & Design 2023 in Shanghai.
Q: How did you become acquainted with Mianhua and her artwork? What do you make of her work?
A: During a visit to Shanghai in 2020, we met at a big art space opening event. We immediately had a good connection and shared similar interests and tastes in art, so we stayed in touch. Once she presented some of her artworks to us, we were amazed by the depth and beauty of the large-sized canvases. The colors, often bold, seem to find their own path onto the canvas. As with plants, they naturally spread like branches, reaching out in all directions and intermingling just like vivid emotions fighting for territory.
Mianhua is adept at capturing the vitality and power of a marvelous and complex interaction. In a balanced fashion, the colors blend in, light and dark, and expand and contract on the canvas while calming and intensifying the viewer's gaze. Conveying the intangible forces behind matter seems to be her obsession, realized in an expressive, lively, and, at the same time, masterfully controlled brushstroke. Sometimes the composition comes to fruition in a very simple manner. Other times, the ideas materialize in a quite complex fashion, never trying to impress or effectively trying to catch one's wandering eye. This style of art creation is quite unique and seldom found.
Q: What are the future plans in terms of cooperation between LFA and Mianhua?
A: As of 2023, we will represent Mianhua in Europe and hope to showcase her works here as soon as possible. I'm sure viewers, like me, will be immediately drawn to and immersed in Mianhua's work. Her ideas, dynamic shapes, fluidity, and intense, bold colors give her work a unique, identifiable touch. This is something we usually look for in an artwork or artist.
Q: This is the first time LFA is exhibiting in China. What are your expectations?
A: We are very excited and grateful to be part of the 10th edition of West Bund Art & Design 2023. For me, Shanghai's unique atmosphere is built upon the alliance of a Western and a Chinese cultural essence and a palpable curiosity toward the new. We see education as part of our mission: to bring these important names, who have led the way in the past, to the Far East and present them to a large audience in the best possible way. Certainly, we hope to reach a significant number of younger collectors who have an international outlook and also value the quality of their collections.
We are looking forward to welcoming audiences who are inquisitive and keen to learn more about these artists and their oeuvre. We hope to see some of our museum-quality works find their way into private museums or collections in Shanghai and beyond.
Q: It has been reported that LFA lends parts of the family art collection to some well-known art museums and art institutions, such as works by Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and other artists of the Vienna Secession, to help hold exhibitions. Will you cooperate with local art museums or art institutions to present similar exhibitions in China?
A: It is indeed true that Leopold Fine Arts, in addition to dealing with art, manages a part of the Leopold Private Collection and organizes exhibitions, not only around the subject of Vienna 1900. We don't want to give away too much, but there might be something in the making with a local Chinese institution for the fall of 2024.
Q: Could you please introduce some highlighted works you are going to present this year?
A: Every piece of artwork brought to the fair has a story to tell. Whether in terms of the period of creation, the exhibitions it has been through, the collection, or the publication, it contains a great deal of information that is worth exploring in depth.
We will present four pieces by Egn Schiele: two sketches and two watercolors on paper. I am very proud and fortunate to be able to bring a key piece of Egon Schiele to the fair. "Seated Boy with Folded Hands" was created in 1910, a key moment in the development of Schiele, when he achieved his artistic independence. The work has since been exhibited in important early international Egon Schiele exhibitions, e.g., London 1964, Tokyo 1991, and New York 1995.
Schiele kept the boy's head and hands in a glowing scale of orange, red, and burgundy hues. Masterfully contrasting these with the dark tones of the garment, he, at the same time, reflects the vibrant shades of red on the boy's skin – nothing is left to chance. The work stems from a prominent series of proletarian youth that Schiele depicted from 1910 until 1912. Despite their impoverished background, Schiele never failed to bestow dignity when portraying them. In this case, the face of the proletarian boy looking straight into the viewer's eyes is wonderfully expressive.
Gustav Klimt's "Reclining Girl in a Frilly Dress" (after 1904) can be directly linked to the famous book "Lucians Hetairikoi Dialogogi (Lucian's Hetaera Conversations)", published in 1907 by Wiener Werkstaette. Lucian is a witty mocker who recounts with fine irony and cheeky humor how courtesans fought for the favor of men in ancient Greece.
His famous text focuses on jealousy, lust, love, power, and money. This masterpiece of ancient literature was illustrated by Gustav Klimt with 15 intriguing large-format illustrations. Colored drawings by Gustav Klimt are particularly fine and rare, with the signature often missing.