Gustav Klimt and the 1908 Kunstschau

By Austrian National Library

Group of artists with Gustav Klimt (c. 1898)Austrian National Library

A gigantic exhibition project under the leadership of Gustav

In 1907, seven of the artists who left the Secession in 1905 joined forces with eight of their friends to form a committee to plan their own large-scale exhibition.

Gustav Klimt (1908) by Atelier Madame d'OraAustrian National Library

Gustav Klimt was elected president of the committee.

Josef HoffmannAustrian National Library

However, Vienna did not have a suitable building for the exhibition, so it was decided they would build one of their own according to plans drawn by Josef Hoffmann.

Kolo MoserAustrian National Library

Among the contributing artists on the committee that organized this extensive exhibition of Austrian artists were Koloman Moser, Alfred Roller, Otto Prutscher, Karl Moll, and Berthold Löffler.

Alfred Roller (1909) by Atelier Madame d'OraAustrian National Library

In the end, 176 artists took part in the show.

Karl Moll by Atelier Madame d'OraAustrian National Library

After leaving the Secession—and access to its exhibition rooms—in 1905, the Klimt Group urgently needed a suitable exhibition space to be able to present their work to the general public.

Berthold Löffler by Wenzel WeisAustrian National Library

The artists decided not to appear in the Kunstschau (art show) as an association, but as individuals.

Cabaret "Fledermaus", Foyer (c. 1910)Austrian National Library

Inspired by the completion of the Cabaret Fledermaus in Vienna and the Palais Stoclet in Brussels according to Hoffmann's designs, the architect and Klimt saw a new opportunity to create a Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art).

Wall from the showroom "Plakatkunst" at the Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

For example, the tiled wall in the Cabaret Fledermaus (1907) was inspiration for the similarly designed poster room at the Kunstschau in 1908.

Palais Stoclet, dining roomAustrian National Library

The Palais Stoclet was built in Brussels between 1905 and 1911. Numerous architectural details that were used in the Brussels palace were reapplied in the exhibition building of the Kunstschau.

Berta Zuckerkandl-Szeps (1908) by Atelier Madame d'OraAustrian National Library

After Klimt had consolidated the idea for the exhibition with his friends in 1907, he met with his girlfriend, the well-known journalist Berta Zuckerkandl, and informed her about the project. Directly after their meeting, she reported on it in the "Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung."

Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

Hoffmann designed a unique exhibition complex for the Kunstschau. He incorporated his numerous experiences from previous building, interior and exhibition designs into the construction of this building.

Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

The architect planned a complex of wooden buildings on a 70,000 ft² area, where today the concert hall and skating club are located.
Construction of the exhibition building began six weeks before the exhibition opened. There were numerous pavilions, connecting corridors and open spaces. The gallery rooms had no windows but were lit by ceiling lights. The floors were laid with coconut mats, except in the Vienna workshop space. The windows in the interior rooms looked onto the garden and were decorated with glass paintings.

Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

The exhibition building contained 54 rooms, terraced gardens, a coffee house, and a garden theater.

Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

The exhibition itself was opened on June 1, 1908. The variety of artwork shown at the 1908 Kunstschau was impressive: paintings, graphic art, poster art, architecture, ecclesiastical art, cemetery design, sculpture, theater decoration, and craft objects, such as jewelry, furnishings, and clothing.

Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

Kunstschau 1908 (1908)Austrian National Library

Insight The Kunstschau 1908 (1908) by Moriz NährAustrian National Library

Gustav Klimt was the star of the exhibition. A separate room (Room 22) was dedicated to him, in which 16 of his paintings were shown. Kolo Moser designed the room for his friend Gustav Klimt.

Gustav Klimt's Painting "Danae" (1907/08) (1908) by Moriz NährAustrian National Library

A large proportion of the exhibited art was for sale during and after the exhibition. One of the most successful artists was Klimt, who was able to sell numerous works, such as his painting "Danae" for 8,000 crowns.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, First Version 1907/1908 (1908) by Moriz NährAustrian National Library

Probably the most famous of Klimt's works, "Der Kuss" (The Kiss)—exhibited at the Kunstschau under the title of "Liebespaar" (Lovers)—was bought at the exhibition by the "Moderne Galerie" (Modern Gallery) for 25,000 crowns. The gallery had only opened five years earlier and is now named the "Belvedere." It was the highlight of the Klimt room. The picture caused a great stir and fascinated the visitors. Nevertheless, many other artists were also successful at the exhibition.

Lothringerstraße 20, Vienna: Area before the construction of the concert hall (1911) by Atelier Lechner Müller WienAustrian National Library

The exhibition was shown until November 16, 1908. The following year, the complex was used again for the "Internationale Kunstschau" (International Art Show) of 1909. Subsequently, the building was demolished.

Concert Hall, Vienna (c. 1940) by Fred HenningsAustrian National Library

The Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) was built in its place.

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