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Gottfried Helnwein: The celebrated artist and his loud silence on Scientology

Over the years, we’ve told you about Gottfried Helnwein, the Austrian artist who is most well known in this country for iconic album covers with their gritty style. But he’s most interesting to us for his Scientology involvement, which has come up numerous times over the years. Austrian journalist Peter Reichelt has spent the most time investigating Helnwein, and he let us know he had a new piece about the artist in the publication STANDARD there. With his generous approval, we’re excerpting some of that story here, which he wrote with journalists Olga Kronsteiner and Fabian Schmid.

Gottfried Helnwein is one of Austria’s most prominent artists, and he is courted accordingly in that country — by museum managers, the art trade, and also by prominent government figures. The artist often met former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, for example, and one of those meetings occurred in 2018, the first time that Helnwein was featured on the wrapping of the Ringturm, a prominent insurance building in Vienna that turns over its entire facade to a single artist.

In the meantime, the idea of his own museum has come up, he explained in a recent magazine interview. Years ago, the then governor of Lower Austria, Erwin Pröll, offered him such a museum, and recently former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz is also said to have expressed this wish. “Who knows what the future holds,” remarked the artist, who commutes between Ireland and Florida.

Helnwein, who celebrated his 75th birthday on October 8, has long been celebrated by Klaus Albrecht Schröder, director of Vienna’s Albertina museum. Beginning in late October, the museum launched its second major Helnwein retrospective in ten years (“Reality and Fiction”), and the artist is a frequent guest at the museum’s YouTube channel, where he lectures on works of classical modernism.

Helnwein is rarely at a loss for words, especially when it comes to the dangers of political correctness or the increasing commercial orientation of art. Or about Donald Trump, who will win the US presidential election in 2024 “or the elections were massively rigged,” Helnwein explained in the magazine profile.


What the artist is not prepared to talk about publicly, however, are his links to Scientology, which he has vehemently denied in the past. Documents, however, suggest that Helnwein became a member of this controversial organization in 1972. Four years later, he founded Austria’s “Celebrity Centre” in Vienna, which was called “Center for Art and Communication.” More recently, Helnwein was featured in a documentary (Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child, 2011) on Scientology TV, the channel premiered by church boss David Miscavige in 2018.

In 2019, Helnwein attended Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard birthday event in Clearwater, Florida, and the year before had also attended the annual “Patrons Ball” at Scientology’s UK headquarters in East Grinstead, England. Such events are reserved for members only.

When asked about his membership, Helnwein answered evasively. “I have defended myself against such accusations in the past by filing a constitutional complaint with the German Federal Constitutional Court,” the artist responded. As for the constitutional complaint, the court ruled in 1999 that Helnwein’s personal rights had been violated. However, this involved a series of allegations. The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court found that Helnwein was a Scientologist, at least for a time.

Helnwein did not respond to a long list of follow-up questions – for example about his appearances at the Scientology galas.


This is the only known existing photo of Helnwein with Arthur Hubbard (b.1958), the youngest child of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Arthur studied under Helnwein and lived more than a year in the Helnwein Castle in Burgbrohl, Germany.

Arthur told the authors that he was sent directly from the Scientology’s RPF camp “Happy Valley” to Helnwein to work and live there. Arthur gave Peter Reichelt the coordinates where he could find the secret prison camp where he was imprisoned for many months. He was sent to this prison camp twice in the 80s and 90s.

In the US, Scientology is a tax-exempt religious organization. In Europe, experts and some security authorities classify the organization as anti-democratic. It undermines fundamental and human rights, suppresses freedom of expression and strives for a totalitarian system of rule, as German constitutional protectors emphasize.

Helnwein, meanwhile, is campaigning in Austria for an end to violence against women and girls, specifically as part of the UN campaign “Orange the World,” supported by UN Women Austria, for which he created large-format posters that adorned the Vienna opera house and the Schauspielhaus in Graz in 2021. The subjects were also on display at the “Weltmuseum” in Vienna. In the summer of 2022, they were cut up, made into small pictures and bags and signed by Helnwein. The proceeds from the sale of around 10,000 Euros were donated to women’s aid organizations, according to the museum.

The artist, who was born in Vienna in 1948, is known for his hyper-realistic art, characterized by his exploration of the themes of pain, injury and violence, with “the figure of the vulnerable and defenceless child” serving as his central motif, according to the Albertina’s website.

Peter Reichelt, co-author of this article, first documented Helnwein’s extensive Scientology connections back in 1997 in his book “Helnwein and Scientology – An organisation and its secret service.” When he filmed a report on Helnwein for German TV ARD in March 2000, Reichelt had also planned an interview with the artist, with whom he had previously had professional dealings. During filming, however, a Scientology member stormed out of the Helnwein villa in Clearwater and attacked the TV team with a hammer.

When Helnwein turned 70 in 2018, a party was organized by the Albertina. Guests included not only well-known Helnwein collectors such as Christian Baha and his wife Steffi Graf, but also a number of Scientology members, some of them high-ranking. The latter included portrait artist Robert Schöller, for example.


The STANDARD was unable to clarify why Helnwein, despite his many years of membership, refused to admit to being a Scientologist. In an email to the authors of the article, the artist’s wife Renate Helnwein complained about the research. Her husband had “never received any financial benefit” from any institution or public body in Austria, and he had not even been able to “claim the donation to the Albertina for tax purposes…as he has his main residence in Ireland.”

“It is obvious that you are going to write a hate article and want to harm my husband,” Renate complained.

At the October 24 retrospective opening at the Albertina, Helnwein was embraced by Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer. The artist is still considered a treasure in Austria.


Technology Cocktail/

“Charge is held in place by the basic on a chain. When only later than basic incidents are run charge can be restimulated and then bottled up again with a very small amount blown. This is known as “grinding out” an incident. An engram is getting run, but as it is not basic on a chain, no adequate amount of charge is being released.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1963



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.



THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter [42] John Sweeney [43] Tory Christman [44] Kate Bornstein [45] Christian Stolte [46] Mark Bunker [47] Jon Atack [48] Luke Y. Thompson [49] Mark Ebner [50] Bruce Hines [51] Spanky Taylor and Karen Pressley [51] Geoff and Robbie Levin [52] Sands Hall [53] Jonny Jacobsen [54] Sandy Holeman


Source Code

“It is interesting that the Tagalogs weren’t ever told that you were supposed to stop when you were hit by a bullet. So they would get hit with three or four bullets through the heart and one through the head and then run seventy-five yards and take a machete and whack off an American soldier’s head. This was disconcerting to our troops during the Philippine insurrection. So we sent a lot of people in and convinced them that when you were hit by a bullet you were supposed to die. They have never repeated this performance. That is an interesting datum. And yet there were lots of Tagalogs running around getting shot at during World War II and none of them put on this kind of a performance. What actually happened to them was mechanical.” — L. Ron Hubbard, November 12, 1951


Avast, Ye Mateys

“Radical sweeping changes based on the wrong why can crash an org or area. When stats are awful or near zero it doesn’t much matter what you do. But when they’re on a nice steady week after week rise DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING! As one’s pay and morale and Scientology advance depends on this know-how, it is very very important!” — The Commodore, November 12, 1970



Overheard in the FreeZone

“Many gods rule the Matrix. They are the same ones since the Egyptians but names were changed for the Greek and Roman gods. There is one head God, many lesser gods, the watcher gods are in the millions and ultimately the ones that are here in charge of the prison planet and take human form.”


Past is Prologue

2001: The St. Petersburg Times reported that the city of Clearwater, Florida has agreed to give small parcels of land to Scientology. “Clearwater commissioners voted Thursday to give several city alleys and easements on a block of land downtown to the Church of Scientology despite objections from a Pinellas County official, who argued that the county should receive some of the land. Ed Armstrong, an attorney for the church, said that laws governing the vacation of property should determine who gets the land if the city has no use for it. Armstrong contended that legally only the church was entitled to the property on a block southwest of Franklin Street and East Avenue, where the church plans to build a parking garage to serve its new $50 million Flag Building that is under construction. City officials agreed.”


Random Howdy

“I’m bemused that ex-Scientologists still actively engage in magical thinking, not realizing that the number one reason that they got sucked into Scientology in the first place is because they were already engaged in magical thinking through a belief and interest in the supernatural and the paranormal which had already placed them on the slippery slope to cult hell.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker


Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Found guilty on two counts on May 31, remanded to custody. Sentenced to 30 years to life on Sep 7.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Next pretrial hearing October 30.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Leah Remini v. Scientology, alleging ‘Fair Game’ harassment and defamation: Complaint filed August 2, Scientology submitting anti-SLAPP response Oct 26.
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Forced to arbitration. Plaintiffs allowed interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Discovery phase.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Scientology moves for religious arbitration.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Ordered to mediation.



After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] LAPD responds to Leah Remini tweets about Shelly Miscavige, gets stuff wrong
[TWO years ago] Lest we forget: Scientology started out as quack cure-all, selling electronic snake oil
[THREE years ago] Valerie Haney takes fight against Scientology ‘arbitration’ to California Supreme Court
[FOUR years ago] Woman who fled Scientology after being lured in by Jason Dohring acting class goes public
[FIVE years ago] AUDIO: Scientology fundraising throws in a little conspiracy-mongering for effect
[SIX years ago] Tonight on ‘Leah Remini’: Scientology’s front groups, including Narconon, get a special look
[SEVEN years ago] Leah Remini schools us on what motivates Scientologists to toe the line
[EIGHT years ago] Countdown to Room 174: Remembering, in real time, Scientology’s grimmest scandal
[NINE years ago] Scientology Photoshopping: Erasing L. Ron Hubbard’s second wife from ‘The RON Series’
[TEN years ago] Bruce Hines Joins Us As Claire Headley Keeps Us Moving Through Scientology’s OT Levels!
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Desperately Wants Your Children: The Cruise Ship Come-On


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 3,211 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,726 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,276 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,266 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,147 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,451 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,322 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,427 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,874 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,216 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,782 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,701 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,868 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,450 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,711 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,747 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,463 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 3,027 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,342 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,517 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 7,068 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,199 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,537 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,392 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,511 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,867 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,170 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,276 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,674 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,550 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,115 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,628 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,882 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,991 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 12, 2023 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 15 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


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