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FRANZ XAVER MESSERSCHMIDT 1736-1783 2010
Video Documentary, Research Project
Commissioned by Neue Galerie New York
Franz Xaver Messerschmidt video was commissioned as part of the first exhibition in the United States devoted exclusively to this major late 18th-century Bavarian-born Austrian sculptor. It focuses on the artist’s so-called “character heads,” among the most important works of sculpture from their era. The exhibition is organized by Guilhem Scherf, chief curator of sculpture at the Musée du Louvre.
Messerschmidt made his mark at first in Vienna, where he enjoyed a successful career, including several royal commissions. Working in a neoclassical vein, Messerschmidt produced some of the most important sculptures of the eighteenth century. He presented the individual features of his models in a way “true to nature,” in keeping with their age and without idealizing them. No other sculptor in Vienna at the time was similarly uncompromising when producing portraits. Around 1770, there was a rupture in Messerschmidt’s life. The artist was thought to have psychological problems, lost his position at the university, and decided to return to Wiesensteig, his native Bavarian town. From that period on, Messerschmidt devoted himself to the creation of his “character heads,” the body of work for which he would become best known. To produce these works, the artist would look into the mirror, pinching his body and contorting his face. He then rendered, with great precision, his distorted expressions. Messerschmidt is known to have produced more than 60 of these astonishing works before he died in 1783 at the age of 47.
Messerschmidt can be seen in relation to artists such as William Blake and Francisco Goya for his explorations of the dark side of the human soul. His “character heads,” in particular, are masterly works of sculpture, whose expressive intensity anticipates several later developments in art. This short documentary film provides an overview of the remarkable work and personal history of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. It also explores the ways in which he has inspired twentieth-century artists.
Directed by Hakan Topal
Produced by Newgray, New York
Camera Gregor Grkinic Hakan Topal
Editing Hakan Topal
Art Consultant and Researcher Margaret Samu
Location Sound Marc Orleans
Location Assistants Shai Zurim, New York Boris Steiner, Vienna
Editing and Story Consultant Kari Conte
Sound Mastering Nate Greenberg
Interviews Barry X Ball, Artist Deborah Coen, Assistant Professor of History Barnard College, Columbia University Charles Janoray, Art dealer, European sculpture and works of art, New York Dakin Hart, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University Ronald S. Lauder, President, Neue Galerie New York Ian Wardropper, Chairman, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Music By Karlheinz Stockhausen
With kind permission of Universal Edition (London) Ltd., London Alper Yilmaz, Composer, New York
Thanks to Renée Price, Director, Neue Galerie New York Scott Gutterman, Deputy Director, Neue Galerie New York Agnes Husslein, Director ,Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna Sabine Abasser, Anthony Cragg Office, London Jennifer Burbank, Sperone Westwater Gallery New York, Chris Burnside, Cheim and Read, New YorkAli M. Demirel,Artist, Berlin Lilla Fekete, Barry X Ball Studio, New York Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Salon 94, New York Ulrich Hofstätter, Hofgalerie, Vienna Guven Incirlioglu, xurban_collective, Izmir Glenys Johnson, Tony Bevan Studio, London Andrea Mihalovic-Lee, VAGA, New York Claudia Ponton, Art Resource, New York Chelsea Rhadigan, Artists Rights Society, New York Sefa Saglam, Director of Exhibitions and Registrar, Neue Galerie New York Clarissa Stadler, Vienna Angela Westwater, Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York Wendy Williams, Louise Bourgeois Studio, New York James Woodward, Metro Pictures Gallery, New York