London Tube gets covered-up versions of Schiele nudes after it deems the originals too racy

As the art world plans to celebrate the centenary of Austrian expressionist painter Egon Schiele's death, some of his nudes have been dubbed too racy to show in their full glory, not least in the London underground.

London Tube gets covered-up versions of Schiele nudes after it deems the originals too racy
Photo: Christian Lendl/Vienna Tourist Board/AFP
Austrian museums will next year host a series of exhibitions and events to mark the centenary of his passing but time has apparently not dimmed some of the prudish attitudes prevalent in his lifetime regarding his rawest works, Vienna Tourist Board director Norbert Kettner told AFP.
Two of his works — “Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait),” from 1910, and his 1914 work “Girl With Orange Stockings,” appear with their genitals covered over after Transport for London found the uncensored originals beyond the pale.
Advertising hoardings in Germany have similarly covered the offending parts, even though the works were deliberately selected as “we wanted to raise a discussion and the theme of nudity seemed pertinent,” Kettner told AFP.
“The campaign was ready but when we came up with the first visuals we had several reactions of 'that won't do; regulations won't allow us to show genitalia,'” he explained after the London Tube and a German airport both complained.
“We had the green light for a very large format and, the day before they went up, agreement was withdrawn as an ethics committee felt (full nude versions) wouldn't be acceptable for an airport public” or patrons of London's underground trains.
The Viennese tourist office quickly revamped the pictures, covering up the offending organs and adding on the blotted out section the slogan, “SORRY, 100 years old but still too daring today.”
They have also added the hashtag #ToArtItsFreedom in London – a play on the “To every age its art. To every art its freedom” inscribed on the entrance of the Vienna Secession building housing the union of Austrian artists movement.
Kettner revealed that a Viennese display did not share the artistic-sexual qualms of the British or the Germans and had approved a “non-censored” version.
The prolific Schiele, born in 1890 and who died of Spanish flu aged 28, was not always popular in his homeland where some, notably in conservative circles, took a dim view of his vision of tortured eroticism.
Nonetheless, a retrospective of his work will see a number of exhibitions highlight his talents as well as those of his first mentor and Secession co-founder Gustav Klimt.


Austria’s fantastical factory of ‘raw art’

Nestled in the hills of Austria sits Gugging, an artists' colony with a difference where the worlds of psychiatry and art collide -- with spectacular success.

Austria's fantastical factory of 'raw art'
Erich Tressler works on his drawings at Art Brut Centre Gugging. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
Over the past 50 years, mentally ill patients here have churned out an astounding 75,000 recognised artworks, some selling for over 100,000 euros ($110,000).
In particular, it is a wellspring for “Art Brut”, producing some of the giants in the popular genre like August Walla, Oswald Tschirtner and Johann Hauser.
“Raw art” or “outsider art”, as it is known in English, is art by those untrained in — and untainted by — artistic conventions.
To the Frenchman who coined the term, Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), it is found in the works of “primitive societies”, of children — and of the mentally ill.
Until July 2, Dubuffet's sensation-causing 1949 “L'Art Brut” exhibition in Paris that started it all is being staged again at the Gugging Museum.
Gugging Art Brut Centre
The Art Brut Centre Gugging. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
Featured are works by those Dubuffet met while scouring Europe's care homes for people with mental illnesses, like Adolf Woelfli, a Swiss suffering from psychosis and hallucinations.
Others include schizophrenic Aloise Corbaz who would use, at first in secret, juice from petals and toothpaste to create colourful and fantastical images, often of lovers.
“Up until then (1949), what they produced was seen, at best, as a kind of curiosity, certainly not as works of art,” Johann Feilacher, director of the Gugging Art Brut Centre, told AFP.
Nazis to Bowie
The early history of the Gugging psychiatric hospital, in the forested hills north of Vienna, is dark. During World War II, the Nazis killed hundreds of its patients.
In the 1950s though, its new director, Leo Navratil, began to diagnose his patients by getting them to draw.
Amazed by the results, Navratil began a correspondence with Dubuffet and as the output of its patients grew, so did Gugging's fame as a mecca for art brut.
In 1981, Navratil founded at Gugging an art and psychotherapy centre, later renamed the House of Artists.
A commercial gallery and museum followed, drawing a growing stream of visitors. One was David Bowie, who bought several works for his art collection.
The psychiatric clinic itself closed around a decade ago, but the artists' colony remains.
Karl Vondal
Karl Vondal working on a painting. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
“For us, the residents are first and foremost artists with special needs, not patients,” said Feilacher, who took over from Navratil in 1986.
Walla, Tschirtner and Hauser are dead now but half a dozen Gugging artists still generate works today bought by galleries and collectors the world over.
They include Franz Kernbeis, who, when first admitted in 1955, would remain immobile for hours, Karl Vondal, who specialises in erotic works, and Johann Garber.
“Along with the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland (California), Gugging is one of the rare places in the world to have produced so many great artists,” said Sarah Lombardi, director of the Art Brut Collection in Lausanne, Switzerland, home to Dubuffet's legacy.
'Beautiful to paint'
The artists split the proceeds from sales 50:50 with the gallery, in which they are also shareholders.
Garber, whose busy surrealistic designs adorn Gugging's walls and whose technicolour ear sculpture is a Vienna landmark, also has an exhibition on.
Johann Garber
Artist Johann Garber shows his creations. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
“I am an artist and a genius,” Garber told AFP. “It is beautiful to draw and paint. We are happy that we have a place where we can live and draw.”
Just being part of Gugging is no guarantee of success, however.
Not all of the 15 residents produce work “particular enough to be recognised artworks,” said Feilacher.
“Some of them develop late, some of them never.”
By Philippe Schwab/AFP