Vienna’s Albertina Museum to Host Solo Exhibition of Niko Pirosmani

Do you know what we need, my brothers. Let us build a big house, a place where we all can come together, somewhere in the city center, accessible for all. Let us buy a table and a samovar. We will drink tea and speak about art; however, you do not want to do that, you speak about different things – said Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918). It was just one of the dreams of great Georgian artist Pirosmani that never came to be, leaving him to die a lonely death in 1918 in a basement. And yet he left behind him a huge legacy for Georgian art.

2018 marks 100 years since the death of the remarkable Georgian artist, known as the father of minimalism, Niko Pirosmanashvili. In relation to this occasion, the renowned and prestigious Albertina Museum of Vienna is devoting a comprehensive solo exhibition to the 20th century Georgian painter, who tragically died in poverty and whose burial place is still unknown.

Pirosmani was one of those rare talents who were true servants of art and devoted their entire life to their passion and calling. Pirosmani was a self-taught genius who earnt the semblance of a living by painting the walls and signs of shops and taverns. He often went hungry, instead buying paints with the money collected, and he lived in a small room under a staircase for the last part of his life. Only after his death did Pirosmani’s paintings earn fame both within the country and beyond its borders. Several exhibitions have been held in the Louvre, Paris, in Switzerland, Poland, and elsewhere. And now the Albertina Museum is preparing to host an exhibition titled ‘A Wanderer Between Worlds,’ which will be on display from October 26 - January 27, 2019.

“It is a very important occasion since the Albertina Museum of Vienna is one of the main cultural hubs in Europe,” Eka Kiknadze, Director of Georgian National Gallery noted. “The museum is extremely popular, so it is a must-visit place for tourists. The gallery houses artworks dating back to the 15th century up to the modern era. Exhibiting Niko Pirosmanashvili’s artworks at the museum will help to promote and further introduce the Georgian artist to the international audience. Even though he is beloved and cherished in Georgia, the 20th century artist is still little-known to the world, so this will be a big step towards raising awareness not only about Pirosmani but simultaneously about Georgia. His works will serve as a perfect representation of the country, its culture and history. We have been preparing for this exhibition for a few years and now everything is ready to put Pirosmani’s art on display. The concept of Pirosmani’s exhibition was made by two important figures: Bice Curiger, Chief Curator of the Exhibition and an Artistic Director of the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, and Elisabeth Dutz, Curator at the Albertina Museum,” Kiknadze said.

Initiated and organized by the Infinitart Foundation in collaboration with the Georgian National Museum and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, the first significant exhibition of Niko Pirosmani in Austria will feature 29 of his artworks. The exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of his death and simultaneously celebrates his resurrection in the conscience of many.

“For him, art, painting, was emancipation, by means of which he achieved independence, freedom, and sovereignty,” said Bice Curiger during her visit to Tbilisi. “Today, the autodidact who painted his vivid and striking works for the Georgian pubs and inns at the turn of the century is above all also a partly forgotten hero of the avant-garde. Giving broader audiences the chance to discover him is long overdue.”

The exposition will run in parallel with a retrospective of impressionist Claude Monet and will be accompanied by an exposition of contemporary artists, including Georgian Andro Vekua.

“Albertina is one of the major museums of Europe, so such a large scale exhibition devoted to Niko Pirosamni will be good way for the Europe and the world to rediscover this great Georgian artist,” said Mikheil Giorgadze, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, whilst speaking to media at the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery, where the permanent collection of Pirosmani’s artworks are on display.

Together with Pirosamni’s unique artworks kept at the Shalva Amiranashvili National Museum, a book about the artist ‘Pirosmanashvili 1914’ made by Ilya Zdanevich, a Georgian-Polish writer and artist, will also be presented at the Albertina Museum. The book includes a portrait of Pirosmani done by Pablo Picasso in 1972. Ilya Zdanevich introduced Pirosmani’s art to the great Spanish artist, after which, inspired by the sad story of Pirosmani, Picasso created a graphic portrait of the Georgian painter.

Within the frames of the exhibition, renowned Japanese artist and architect Tadao Ando’s ‘Table of Pirosmani’ will be presented at the museum. Inspired by Pirosmani’s tragic fate, Infinitart has made it a mission to build a tomb for him. Now, 100 years after his death, this table is built in his memory.

“As this table will represent the metaphorical grave of Niko Pirosmani, I sought to use a symbol which would thoroughly respect his memory, lifetime of work, and Georgian heritage. As I looked through many of his paintings, I found the reoccurring use of motifs such flowers and roses. As the idea for this table developed, the rose became central,” Tadao Ando said.

Pirosmani produced a large quantity of works throughout his life, but few have survived. Some of his paintings scattered across the world were sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction and some were gifted to the National Gallery of Georgia. His most famous works are: Fisherman in a red shirt, Georgian Feast, and Roe Deer, with Pirosmani's animal portraits amongst the artist's most popular compositions. Pirosmani applies light colors to a matt, black ground, endowing his subject with an ethereal, luminescent quality and strengthening the impression of an unreal, fantastical world. The untrained artist stood out for his simple and distinct manner of painting through which he achieved great heights and created amazing masterpieces that represent a priceless heritage of Georgian culture.

By Lika Chigladze

11 October 2018 17:20