Hermann Nitsch

Hermann Nitsch (b. 1938, Austria, Vienna) is renowned for his bold and often large-scale avant-garde paintings. He is an iconic and dissident figure in contemporary art, being one of the co-founders of the avant-garde Viennese Actionism movement. He was therefore central to the reforming of the canonical notions of worldwide art in the 1960s. Nitsch has worked with radically experimental and multimedia methods throughout his career, and is the only Viennese Actionist member still active today.

Nitsch trained as a painter at the Wiener Graphische Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt, during which he was greatly drawn to religious art. From 1957 onwards, the depiction of Dionysian revelry and ceremonies began to prominently feature in his work. That same year, he simultaneously conceived an idea for a radical theatre, which he called the “Orgien Mysterien Theatre”. It was an attempt to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, a ‘total work of art’ and a mystical, sensory experience for the viewer. The notion of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ has become intrinsic to his artistic practice and can be seen in many of his paintings.

His works capture the essence of his performative spirit and his undying fascination with the corporeal. As Nitsch has before stated: ‘Red is the colour that most intensively arouses attention because it is simultaneously the colour of both life and death’. His expressive use of paint transforms a blank canvas into a performative action: each one capturing and revealing an individual and spontaneous instance. Nitsch lives and works in Austria.

Selected Exhibitions

20th Painting Action, Oficine 800 as a collateral event to the 59th Venice Biennale; Tate Modern, London; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hauser and Wirth, New York; MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Fondació Joan Miró, Barcelona; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; Leopold Museum, Vienna; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; documenta 5 and 6, Kassel; Galleria D’Arte Moderna, Turin; Nationalgalerie, Prague; Hamburger Banhof, Berlin; Fondazione Morra, Naples; The Armory Show, New York; UM MUSEUM, Bongdam Hwaseong, South Korea and Cuban Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale.

Selected Collections

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim, Paris; Metropolitan Museum, New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven USA; Walker Arts Centre, Minneapolis USA; Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA and Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

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