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NINTH NOVEMBER NIGHT
Installation by Gottfried Helnwein in memory of "Kristallnacht" 1938,
for the first time in Israel.
The Installation by Gottfried Helnwein in memory of "Kristallnacht" 1938, for the first time in Israel.
The artist originally erected this art-installation in the fall of 1988 in the city of Cologne in Germany, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the pogrom-night of November 9, 1938. The Installation was placed between the Cologne Cathedral and the Ludwig Museum, alongside the railroad track of the central station. It was entirely financed by the artist.
A hundred meters long, the wall of pictures features large-scale children’s faces in a seemingly endless row, as if made to line up to be “selected”. With the faces of Christian, Jewish and handicapped children that lived in Germany in 1988.
In the second night after the opening, unknown people cut all the throats of the children on the pictures.
For the first time this memorial is now presented in Israel, and for this occasion the artist included faces of children living in Israel in 2010.
Gottfried Helnwein was born in Vienna and lives now with his family in Los Angeles and Tipperary, Ireland.
Ninth November Night - 1996 - Berlin
The most powerful images that deal with Nazism and Holocaust themes are by Anselm Kiefer and Gottfried Helnwein. The work of both artists are informed by the personal experience of growing up in post-war German speaking countries...
William Burroughs said that the American revolution begins in books and music, and political operatives implement the changes after the fact. To this maybe we can add art.
And Helnwein's art might have the capacity to instigate change by piercing the veil of political correctness to recapture the primitive gesture inherent in art.
Jewish Journal, Los Angeles
Again and again, Helnwein painted children in brutal, violent settings. He has used Chris-tian iconography to depict Nazi officers, and juxtaposed rampaging soldiers with Images of childhood innocence. Visceral reactions come with the territory: one Installation in Cologne was physically attacked by neo Nazis. And yet, he says, he does not set out to shock. "Shock is a useless effect," he says. "Somebody in shock is completely useless. I want to make somebody think".
The Sunday Times, UK
Helnwein is the next generation’s final ally, a skilled provocateur forcing us to confront the legacy we have bequeathed upon our children. Helnwein is our chronicler, our conscience, the antidote to our failing memories. He refuses to let us forget.
Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, 1988
Musee'De L'Elysee Lausanne, Switzerland, 1990
Minoriten Church, Museum of Lower Austria, Krems, Austria 1991
City center of Heilbronn, Germany, 1992
Museum St. Ingbert, Albert Weisgerber Stiftung, Saarbrücken, Germany, 1993
Ludwig Institut, Schloss Oberhausen, Germany, 1995
Kulturbrauerei, Berlin, Germany, 1996
Museum of Fine Art, Otaru, Japan, 1996
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1997
City of Kilkenny, Ireland, 2001
Museum of Tolerance/Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, 2003
Tel Aviv, Israel, 2010
The Austrian Cultural Forum Tel Aviv
The Israeli Opera
Trevision Visual Communication Group
Friedman-Benda Gallery, New York
"Well, the world is a haunted house, and Helnwein at times is our tour guide through it.
I don't think that you can recognize a feeling from something that you look at unless it's part of yourself, and so when someone is willing to take on the sadness, the irony, the ugliness and the beauty in the kind of way that Gottfried does.
Not all of Gottfried's work is on a canvas. A lot of it is the way he's approached life. And it doesn't take someone knowing him to know that. You take one look at the paintings and you say "this guy has been around." You can't sit in a closet - and create this. This level of work is earned.
As an artist my strongest reaction to Helnwein's work is that it challenges me to be better at what I do. There are very few people that achieve utter excellence in what they do. And I think that Gottfried Helnwein is certainly one of those people."
Helnwein's subject matter is the human condition. The metaphor for his art is dominated by the image of the child, but not the carefree innocent child of popular imagination.
Helnwein instead creates the profoundly disturbing yet compellingly provocative image of the wounded child. The child scarred physically and the child scarred emotionally from within.
Robert Flynn Johnson
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
An extremely impressive work "Selection- Ninth November Night", made in 1988, consisted of a series of uniform, huge images of children's faces, stretching from Cologne's Ludwig Museum to its cathedral. The subtitle, (Ninth November Night), gave the clue to the event the work marked - the start of the Holocaust on Reichskristallnacht, November 9, 1938.
In presenting people with a series of entirely neutral, if rather beautiful, pictures of innocence and implicitly pointing out that just such innocents were sorted and selected for extermination, Helnwein was resurrecting an aspect of the past that most Germans and, perhaps even more so, Austrians, have preferred to forget.
It certainly annoyed someone to the extent that they came and vandalised it, symbolically cutting the throats of some of the images. Selection shares with Helnwein's more sensational work a desire to prod us into thought about our own attitudes and roles.
The real horror, as his work reiterates, is indifference and complacency.
The Irish Times
"Not even the children were spared; they, too, fell victim to the destruction.
It was Gottfried Helnwein's most convincing idea to present the consequences to this period without mercy" in such an unconventional manner. He made no use of photos of heaped corpses; children's portraits force the observer to stop and consider this idea. The fury with which the neo-nazis reacted to these portraits is understandable inasmuch as it is the very same fury with which they have for years been fighting against The Diary of Anne Frank; the murder of children rouses abhorrence and conflict in every human, whether they are motivated by ideology or insanity. The urge to destroy has survived; the portraits bear witness to its rage - an attempt was made to cut them to shreds. "People, please, stop,... look at these children's faces, multiply their number by a few hundred thousand. Only then will you realise or gain an inkling of the extent of the Holocaust, of the greatest tragedy in human history!
about the installation 'Ninth November Night'
"Helnwein is a great believer in the ability of art to pass emotional memory on, as a reminder of the past or mainly as a warning of what the future might hold, for humanity, as far as he is concerned, has not learnt its lesson. Is there atonement in his artistic endeavors? I prefer the Jewish concept of “tikkun”, purification of the soul. It has a deeper meaning than the physical healing of scars, for it elevates us to the highest sphere of the spirit. The wounded girls close their eyes, but they are not blind. Behind their closed lids their gaze is clear and penetrating."
Nava Semel, Israel
"Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein's powerful and haunting paintings provide a disturbing commentary on Nazism and the Holocaust, regularly provoking outraged reactions from right-wingers in his native land and in Germany.
'I was amazed how deep pictures could reach into the hearts and minds of people - and how much they would talk to me about it,' he said, 'for me, art is like a dialogue.
- But my art is not giving answers, it is asking questions."
Jewish Chronicle, London
"What Helnwein creates, regardless the medium - watercolor, oil, photography, performance art, sculpture - is a thorny psychological excursion into our sublimated self, our obscured corners and dark humors. His explorations into war crimes, Catholicism, disfigurement and the Holocaust are both unflinching and surgical. His work is in museum collections around the world, including those of LACMA and the Smithsonian, and critics have labeled it grotesque, fearless, disturbing and veer[ing] dangerously close to offensive. 'People are surprised', he says, when they discern that he doesn't seem insane."
Los Angeles Times
Adults bring a trunkful of contradictory cultural baggage to any representations of children. That's what makes the work of Helnwein so powerful. In his show, "The Child," at the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum, deformed infants and bandaged children stir feelings of pity, defiance and uneasiness about exploitation. There's an ambiguously disturbing painting of a girl aiming a gun into an open refrigerator and another of a bare-breasted mother and child surrounded by Aryan soldiers.
But the most haunting images may be the ones of children who seem strangely oblivious to the adult gaze. Some of Helnwein's children peer right past the onlooker. Others sleep, dreaming of anything but us behind their silky eyelids. And some, like the enormous, half- shadowed "Head of a Child" see straight through us with cloudless, infinite blue eyes.
The San Francisco Chronicle
An alternative title to 'Angels Sleeping' for this exhibition could be “All Hail to the Wounded Child,” as many of the works center on irreparably wounded children (both externally and internally) as the innocent victims of war. The children in Helnwien’s works may also represent the lost or destroyed child in all of us, not only as victims of war, but as victims of modern society, with all its mindless violence and perverse attraction to aggressive mobs and disturbances. If there were a soundtrack to this exhibition, it would be a long, endless scream.
The Prague Post
"Austria has been one of the main hubs of European culture, especially in music and art. The artists are not always conventional or conformist. Like the recent Nobel Prize winner for literature, Elfriede Jelinek, some of Helnwein’s work, which takes an uncomfortable look at Austria’s past and the unhealthily close relationship between Church and State in the Nazi era, has caused controversy.
I think we should be in no doubt that we are in the presence of the work of an artist of exceptional stature."
Senator Martin Mansergh
Irish politician, architect of the "Good Friday-agreement"
Your paintings have left a deep impact on me.
To be honest - they have shocked me.
I have thought about it for a long time and came finally to the conclusion, that people should be confronted with these images to be inspired to think.
Austrian minister for education and culture
In memory of the children of Europe who have to die of cold and hunger this Xmas", was written on the draft of a poster in the winter of 1945 by the Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka who emigrated to London. He had 5000 copies printed at his own cost and posted in underground stations.
In late autumn 1988 the Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein, who emigrated to the Rhineland, mounted a series of five meter high photo prints with children's faces along a one hundred meter long wall between the cathedral of Cologne and the Museum Ludwig. He called the work Selection (Ninth November Night). It is a work of monstrous expression and painful effect. His title recalls the anniversary of the so-called Reichskristallnacht, through which Helnwein gives the children's portraits their almost overwhelmingly harrowing effect.
As we were preparing his exhibition for the Lentos Art Museum together with Gottfried Helnwein, I was researching at the same time for a different project about Kokoschka. The story of the London posters was new to me. Unintentionally and unexpectedly the two artist lives blended into one another for a brief poignant moment. With a tremendous creative effort, ability to communicate, organizational experience, implementation energy and financial resources, both artists devoted themselves on a specific occasion to an appeal: Remember!"
Director, Lentos Museum of Modern Art, Linz
In a moving exhibition at the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hannover, paintings of the Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein are on view. One of his paintings shows a girl with a rascally face wearing an armband for the blind, with her tongue sticking out. At first I smiled. If you keep looking at this painting, you will see that the girl has blood running down the inside of her legs. The child obviously was abused, force was used against her... yes, children are vulnerable. Childhood can be terrible, when children are at the mercy of someone.
- I'm thinking of the 12 year old Judith Wischnajatskaja, who wrote her last letter in July 1942: "Dear Father! With death I bid you goodbye. We would like to live so much but we are not allowed, we will perish. I am so afraid of this death because the little children are thrown into the pit alive.
Dr. Margot Käßmann
Bishop, leader of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Germany
"In his last will, the Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard, who died in 1989, banned the production of his texts on home soil. Bernhard never hid his fury at Austria's refusal to admit its history. Helnwein, born in 1948, clearly shares Bernhard's view. He is furious about Austria's self-image as victim of the Third Reich, rather than its willing collaborator.
In 1965 posters for the Freedom Party, later led by Jörg Haider, demanded: "Forget about the past! Look ahead at the future." Helnwein, then still a teenager, reacted by painting a portrait of Adolf Hitler that got him expelled from art school. His "crime" was to have reminded Austria of its best-known son.
New Statesman, UK