Book look: Oliver Spiecker

More than 250,000 people attended a special Gottfried Helnwein exhibition at the Albertina, a Viennese gallery, this year. Now a German author released a protocol of his conversation with the controversial artist.

In “Malen heißt sich wehren”, Spiecker and Helnwein – who was influenced by growing up in the ultra-conservative Vienna of the 1950s – discuss various aspects of the latter’s artistic output but 1also very personal issues. Speaking of the circumstances in the Republic of Ireland at the time he settled in the country, Helnwein told Spiecker: “Fifteen years ago, Ireland was probably the freest country in the world. There was no bureaucracy whatsoever. No need to fill in any forms. No questions asked.”

Further on in their conversation, Helnwein shares his opinion on the economic boom of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and the way Ireland and Europe handled the financial crisis. He also speaks about painting his first landscape portrait after decades in which he focused on pictures of wounded children.

Helnwein, who has residences in Ireland and Los Angeles, recently turned 65. His art has always caused public debates since his paintings and photographs show minors in disturbing poses, often smeared with blood or apparently injured by complex instruments. Adolf Hitler, Donald Duck and Marilyn Manson are other key figures of his oeuvre.

Asked by Spiecker – whose richly illustrated book features a foreword by Iris Berben – whether he was surprised by the Fritzl incest case, Helnwein explained: “Probably not as surprised as the international public. I know Austria. A country of cellars. Austria has always been like that.”

Malen heißt sich wehren
By Oliver Spiecker
Published by Edition Braus (

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