This exhibition contains approximately 19 paintings, 13 drawings and watercolors, and over 20 photographs spanning a 35-year period from the early 1970s until the present. The photographs are of two types: independent works of art and others that serve to document earlier important performance art pieces (Aktions), and large-scale installation art works.
The subject matter of Helnwein's art concerning the child ranges from subtle inscrutability to stark brutality. Despite the technical beauty of Helnwein's art, it is, instead, its ability to make us emotionally and intellectually reflect on the pertinent themes he chooses that make his art significant. Many people feel that museums should be a refuge to experience quiet beauty divorced from the coarseness and brutality of the world. This notion sometimes sells short the purposes of art, the function of museums, and the intellectual curiosity of the public. While this exhibition will inspire and enlighten many it may also upset others, as sometimes does art that deals with important themes in our society.
On view for the first time in this exhibition is Gottfried Helnwein's 1998 painting Epiphany II (Adoration of the Shepherds), a major gift to the Fine Arts Museums from San Francisco gallerist Martin Muller. This imposing (8 ft. x 10 ft.) painting is a key work in Helnwein's art during the 1990s and in his continuing involvement with the theme of the child.