Helnwein is Austrian by birth, has lived in Germany, and maintains a home and studio in Ireland. He set up a second studio in Downtown Los Angeles in 2002, and he and his family are Arts District fixtures. "I really love it Downtown, there's a certain freedom," he said. "It may not really last long."
The monochromatic art of the '80s is just one of the touchstones in his career. In Cologne, Germany in 1988, he installed a 100-meter long wall filled with children's pictures in remembrance of Kristallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust 50 years prior. He has created large-scale portraits of injured or deformed humans, and chillers like "Epiphany I," a 1996 painting in which a Mary-esque model holds her infant, surrounded by German SS officers leering at the apparent baby Jesus.
Helnwein has had numerous museum shows, including retrospectives at Vienna's Albertina Museum in 1985, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg in 1997, and San Francisco's Fine Arts Museum last year.