A Unique Viennese Collection of Art
Art Market|Issue #47 May 2020
An exclusive interview with David Ungar-Klein
IDA SALAMON

It began 15 years ago as a spontaneous idea, during the Vienna Congress Com. sult organized by David Ungar-Klein. Over the years, some of the participants of the annual congress - very prominent, influential guests and Nobel prize laureates, people without artistic experiences, but with strong imaginations - were asked to paint what moved them deeply.

Using acrylic colors or pens, wearing long coats which resembled that of the famous painter Gustav Klimt at the turn of the last century, these famous personalities created a collection of outstanding artworks.

Art Market Magazine: You told us that at the time, you had not yet had thought of asking your first speaker at the Congress, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, to create a painting. You also forgot to ask the then President of Israel, Shimon Peres, about that. When did it all begin? What was the idea behind the project?

David Ungar-Klein: The speakers at the Vienna Congress are well-known people, who bring standards to new heights in their field and are key-players that drive and enable progress in our world. It was a spontaneous idea originating from a conversation in 2005 that made manager of the century, Jack Welch, personally paint a picture for me.

He told me that he had never attempted artistic activities before. I asked him to think of something extraordinary. He should use color on a canvas and with that expresses what moves him, looking deep in his heart, and what has a special place in his life.

The work features a red foundation, which Welch painted with acrylic paint and rough brush strokes.

He then painted a white arrow and a dot in a circle. With his work, Welch achieved a strong symbolic effect: the arrow can be interpreted as, maybe, a kind of a home, and the dot in a circle as a target. As a top-class manager, it was important for Welch to have a high degree of focus and concentration in order to pursue his goals. The aggressive red underground of his work can be interpreted here as the way he runs his company, but the clear lines represent determination. Unfortunately, I didn't have an idea of creating Artistic Signatures one year earlier when Bill Gates was my guest.

In 2006 I was so profoundly captured by impressive moments and conversations with Shimon Peres, that I simply forgot to ask him to paint a picture.

A.M.: All these people are not artists, and they have incredibly busy schedules. How did you manage to convince them to take the time to paint?

D.U.K: The creators of these artworks are all highly analytical and extremely rational people – quite the opposite of creative artists. They work a lot; they are always on the way; their schedule is constantly full. The fact that they take the time to think of something, paint a picture, try a few things until a finished work is finally completed is something extraordinary for these people too, which, for that reason, has a unique meaning to them. Most of these people have never attempted artistic activities. As a rule, I ask people to express what moves and deeply concerns them.

To name a few examples, Nobel Laureate in chemistry, Dan Shechtman, painted Innovation Tree; Carl Djerassi, father of the pill, painted a picture under the title The Intellectual Bigamist; Disney C.E.O. Michael Eisner, painted a Mickey Mouse; politician Tzipi Livni the Dove of Peace on the David Star with Justicia; Nobel laureate in chemistry, Ada Yonath, painted a Happy Ribosome; the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus - the Migration of People; President and Nobel laureate for Peace, Frederik Willem de Klerk, painted the Colorful bird in the Colors of the South African State; former German politician, Hans-Dietrich Genscher - A Yellow House; and astronaut Buzz Aldrin painted Mission to Mars.

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