Gottfried Helnwein

Helnwein with Disasters of War painting

"My art is not an answer - it is a question."
Gottfried Helnwein

Gottfried Helnwein (1948)

Gottfried Helnwein was born in 1948 in Vienna, Austria. He studied at the University of Visual Art in Vienna (Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, Wien).

Helnwein is a prominent international conceptual artist, concerned primarily with psychological, sociological and historical issues. He has worked as a painter, draftsman, photographer, muralist, sculptor, video and performance artist.

Helnwein's subject matter involves the complexities of the human condition. His disturbing yet provocative images of physically and emotionally wounded children have been seen as metaphors for larger global issues. He portrays the innocence of adolescence against the backdrop of historical events like the Holocaust to highlight the fragility of humanity in an unstable world.

In 1988, in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of "Kristallnacht", the actual beginning of the Holocaust, Helnwein erected a 100 meter long installation of the wounded children's portraits in the city center of Cologne, between Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Cathedral. Since then large scale installations in public spaces became an important part of his work.

In 2006 The Council of the city of Philadelphia honored Gottfried Helnwein for his artistic contributions in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.

The artist is also known for his stage and costume designs for theater, ballet and opera productions. amongst them Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress" at Staatsoper Hamburg, "Der Rosenkavalier" by Richard Strauss at the Los Angeles Opera, Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" at Bonn Opera and many others.

The new opera "The Child Dreams" with set and costumes designed by Gottfried Helnwein premiered at Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv in January 2010.

The Helnwein retrospective in 2013 at the Albertina museum in Vienna received 250.000 visitors and was one of the most successful exhibitions in the history of the museum.

Major retrospective exhibitions:

  • Munchen Stadtmuseum, 1982 Albertina, Vienna, 1985
  • Musee d'Art Moderne, Strasbourg 1987
  • Musee de l'Elysee, Lausanne, 1990
  • Josef Albers Museum, 1993
  • Rheinischen Landesmuseum, Bonn, 1993
  • Centre International d'Art Contemporain de Montreal, Quebec, 1994
  • Museum of Fine Art, Otaru, Japan, 1996
  • State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 1997
  • Waino Aaltonen Museum, Turku, Finland, 1998
  • San Francisco Fine Arts Museum, The Legion of Honor, 2004
  • State Gallery Rudolfinum, Prague, 2008
  • Central European House of Photography, Slovakia, 2009
  • Croker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, 2011
  • Albertina Museum , Vienna, 2013

Helnwein's works are in public collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Albertina Museum, Vienna as well as in private collections of Benedikt Taschen, Cologne, Los Angeles; Robert Wilson, New York; Sean Penn, San Francisco; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles; Andrew Lloyd Webber, London; Nicolas Cage, Los Angeles and many others.

Helnwein lives and works in Los Angeles and Ireland.