Niko Pirosmani is considered one of the most outstanding representatives of Georgian painters of the 20th century, and his legacy continues to captivate art lovers around the world. In 2018, the Albertina Museum in Vienna hosted the exhibition “NIKO PIROSMANI – A Wonderer Between Worlds,” which showcased 29 of his paintings from the collection of the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts.
More than 400,000 visitors attended the exhibition, which also presented a specially designed table by the famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, titled “Table of Pirosmani,” dedicated to the memory of the artist. Additionally, the exhibition featured a handmade book by Ilia Zdanevich, published in Paris in 1972 and titled “Pirosmanashvili 1914,” which included Pablo Picasso’s engraving “Portrait of Pirosmani.”
The main goal of the exhibition was to introduce Niko Pirosmanashvili’s work and the Georgian cultural heritage to the general public. It was organized by the National Museum of Georgia, the Albertina Museum, and the Infinitart Foundation, with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of Georgia. The project partners and biggest contributors were TS Foundation (Tamaz Somkhishvili Foundation), Bank of Georgia, Julius Baer, and Lady Angela Nevill, without whose support Niko Pirosmani’s works would not have been able to travel beyond his home country’s borders.
Bice Curiger, Curator of the Exhibition, noted, “I visited Tbilisi in 1988 for the first time, and even now I remember the feeling when I discovered the paintings of this artist in the art museum. After I went back home, I brought a book about Pirosmani, and his world became very close to mine. I am happy that after so many years, the Vienna Albertina Museum can host the masterpieces of this artist.”
The exhibition showcased some of Pirosmani’s most famous paintings, including “Roe Deer Drinking from a Stream,” “Camel and Merchant,” “Actress Margarita,” “The Train of Kakheti,” “Firewood Merchant Boy,” “Russian-Japanese War,” “Black Boar,” and “Giraffe.” These works offer a glimpse into the self-taught artist’s poetic and sincere art, which reflects the shape, style, and interior aesthetics of Georgia.
Pirosmani’s paintings depict an amazing animal world and pictures from Georgia. His paintings of old Georgian faces are considered heroes of the avant-garde. For visitors who are used to meeting big artists, Pirosmani’s art unexpectedly surprises them, and they follow his paintings with inner rhythm and interest.
The handmade book by Ilia Zdanevich offers a historical insight into Pirosmani’s life, and the engraving by Pablo Picasso adds an extra layer of artistic significance to the exhibition. Additionally, Tadao Ando’s specially designed table, inspired by “Actress Margarita” and the legend of the million roses, was exhibited for the first time. The table was decorated with blue roses and was a beautiful tribute to the memory of the artist.
Artist David Kakabadze described Niko Pirosmanashvili: “When I saw Niko Pirosmanashvili’s work for the first time in 1913, I was astonished by this unusual painter. I dreamed that his works of wisdom would always inspire me and teach me. I know no other painter who felt Georgia as Niko did. I think, in discovering his work, my life has become richer and happier. When enjoying Pirosmani’s works, I feel renewed by the power of the land and the influence of the scent of Niko’s oil cloth.”
The “NIKO PIROSMANI – A Wonderer Between Worlds” exhibition at the Albertina Museum in Vienna offered a unique opportunity to appreciate the art and legacy of Niko Pirosmani. It showcased some of his most famous paintings and provided a glimpse into his life and artistic processes. The exhibition was a beautiful tribute to the artist’s memory and introduced his work and Georgian cultural heritage to a wider audience.
By Sofia Bochoidze