Maybe you are wondering why I am talking here about Tamara Lempicka. She has nothing to do with Fantasy Art; not really.
She painted some surreal landscapes, at the end of her artistic career, but they were not especially outstanding or unusually beautiful. Personally I think they are not even average. But nevertheless she wasn't a surreal painter, she was an very original portraitist. But it is her life that is more interesting that her art. She was the master of mystification; she mastered the skill of disorientation, puzzlement and confusion to the highest level. There is no single thing from her biography she didn't colorize at all, sometimes for public relation purposes, sometimes out of vanity, indisputably that is why the story of her life is as difficult to put together as biographies of the masters of early gothic.
It is hard to tell you where Lempicka's paintings can be seen, firstly because they are owned predominantly by private collectors.
I had enormous luck once when I was in Vienna, I think it was in the autumn of 2004. Almost the whole collection of her paintings were to be found in BA – CA Kunst Forum. That exhibition was the first complete exhibition of her work. I was totally conquered by her work. As I was born in Poland I heard of course about her (she was one of the not so many famous female artists and not only that, she was Polish too!) but I never saw her work live. I expected lots of paintings in Art Deco style but I had no idea that she was not only very famous in her time for her lifestyle but also for her talent.
Some official text "She is best known for her pictures epitomising the flair and lifestyle of Art Deco: her Self-portrait in a green Bugatti stands as a symbol for the period, but Lempicka's exceptional artistic qualities have remained largely unappreciated. Today's art world is experiencing renewed interest in the figurative and realistic painting of the 20th century. The younger generation has rediscovered artists who, turning their backs on the official avant-gardes, developed independently and made their own way. Artists such as Frida Kahlo, Edward Hopper, Francis Picabia and Tamara de Lempicka have acquired new importance and relevancy in postmodern art history as well"
The BA-CA Kunstforum showed included around 60 major works from museums and private collections in Europe and the USA.
I found in her painting lots of cool erotic undercurrents. I will try to explain it: a combination of sultry sensuality and cool classicism, together with the influence of cubism give the paintings an original, unique erotic magic. It was a quite experience for me. I visited the exhibition twice, and spent a lot time inside the walls, admiring Lempicka's paintings. I was imagining the exciting time that she lived between the two World Wars, the time of decadence (almost every artist would love to be decadent), Paris, Hollywood, her marriages, her sexual affairs (lots of them). Her style of living was very different from contemporary moral norms. We have become more and more strait-laced. I am wondering why?
Where can you see Lempicka's work? Three paintings are owned and exposed in Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, in Paris. To know: "The Unfinished Man", "Kizette on the Balcony" and "Girl with Gloves". National Museum in Warsaw has owned three of her paintings, but unfortunately they do not expose it. (I guess it is possible to arrange a private 'meeting', I will try it very soon). The rest of her paintings are owned by private collections/collectors. If I am wrong, please let me know and correct me.