conversation piece

Gottfried Helnwein – Epiphany I – adoration of the Magi

Here is a piece of work that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best conversation pieces in art.

In 1996 it was created by the Austrian-born Irish-naturalised Gottfried Helnwein as one of a series of works under the umbrella term of ‘Epiphany’. Throughout the years the hyperrealist artist has addressed a number of uneasy subjects. Most of these have to do with harm and injustice caused to children. A recurring theme has been Nazism and its place in modern Austrian history. He has exposed it with all its taboos and short-term memory loss.

With this piece of work, the artist dips into our collective memory of Christianity’s most famous birth. The appropriated Nativity scene is an eery experience indeed. You soon notice the Madonna and Child are surrounded by five SS officers, who in turn are in awe of the Aryan woman and her child. The Christ (already a toddler and standing) on Mary’s lap, stares intensely at us and looks somewhat like Adolf Hitler.

Art is a weapon with which I can fight back

“Kunst ist für mich eine Waffe, mit der ich zurückschlagen kann.”

Gottfried Helnwein

The Epiphany I (adoration of the Magi) 1996 is today an important part of the Kent Logan Collection at Denver Art Museum. The original painting is 210×333 cm oil and acrylic on canvas, and you can still obtain signed limited edition prints at the artists online shop.