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Klimt postcards and UN assembly portraits in Vienna

Exciting exhibitions are on display at two of Vienna’s most popular cultural institutions.

The Westlicht – a prestigious photo gallery located in Neubau district – currently presents 50 images of a collection called "Platon – Gesichter der Macht". British-Greek photographer Platon Antoniou was given the opportunity to portray the world’s leaders during a general assembly of the United Nations (UN) in New York City, USA, in 2009.

Speaking to Austrian radio station Ö1, Antoniou said that he had the outspoken support by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon but UN officials nevertheless needed 67 meetings to finally give his application to organise the shooting the go-ahead.

Antoniou, who has worked for renowned magazines like Time and Vanity Fair, revealed on Ö1 that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he had 15 seconds to take the picture.

Speaking to newspaper Die Presse, the photographer said Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, shouted at him and decided not to pose for a photograph in a last-minute decision.

Late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi was accompanied by his female bodyguards when he posed in Antoniou’s makeshift studio at the UN headquarters – while US President Barack Obama held a speech. Antoniou said: "Gaddafi did not say a lot but I think his facial expression clearly indicates his contempt."

Antoniou said former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had a "Hollywood attitude". He told Ö1: "Berlusconi danced into the room, posed for the camera, and left dancing – a bit like Fred Astaire."

The photographer said he hoped his work may help change things for the better. Antoniou admitted having been impressed when anti-government protesters in Rome and Moscow held up his images of Berlusconi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer appeared at the Westlicht Gallery in person to open the exhibition. His portrait is on display as part of the exhibition as well. "I have never seen such cool eyebrows before," Antoniou said about Fischer.

Meanwhile, the Leopold Museum hosts a special exhibition on Fin de Siecle star Gustav Klimt. "Klimt persönlich" (Klimt: Up Close and Personal) features some of the artist’s most famous paintings but also many postcards and personal notes in an attempt to portray the painter as a person.

Tobias Natter, the Leopold Museum’s new creative director and curator of the exhibition, told the Kurier: "We may assume that Klimt was a bon vivant, but the most common word he used in his letters was ‘unhappy’. He considered his work as a burden."

Klimt died in 1918. His 150th birthday is celebrated with special exhibits and guided tours across Vienna this year. Tourism officials hope that the enduring hype around the famous artist will help Vienna’s museums, restaurants, hotels and gift shops to additional income.

>> www.westlicht.at

>> www.leopoldmuseum.org

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