Hermann Nitsch, Das Orgien Mysterien Theater - Frühe Aktionen. 12. Aktion, 1965, 1982, Silkscreen on clothbound case, photographs, blood on canvas on paper card, 84.5 × 66 × 3.5 cm, Edition of 15 plus V AP
Courtesy of Archivio Conz, Berlin
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Silkscreened clothbound portfolio case containing a colophon, eight mounted black & white photographs, and one relic from the performance.
  • Silkscreen on clothbound case, photographs, blood on canvas on paper card
  • 84.5 × 66 × 3.5 cm
    (33 ¼ × 26 × 1 ⅜ inches)
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  • Hermann Nitsch was an Austrian multidisciplinary artist and a leading figure of Viennese Actionism. His grand-scale performances incorporated theater and ritual, profanity and ceremony, body and painting, pursuing an approach to artmaking that addressed the psychological depths of human existence. Growing up during the dramatic unfolding of World War II, he graduated from the Higher Graphical Federal Education and Research Institute in Vienna in 1958, taking an initial interest in drawing and gestural painting. The Greek Tragedy, as well as Arnold Schönberg, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Antonin Artaud, were some of the references Nitsch brought together in these years within the concept of the Orgies Mysteries Theater, aiming at a total art experience. This artistic conception, which combined psychoanalysis, mysticism, and existentialism, was the common thread in Nitsch’s production. First incorporated in a six-day written drama, then condensed on canvas with his Schüttbilder (Poured Paintings), the concept of the O.M. Theater found its ultimate expression in crude multisensory actions that employed primordial revulsion to trigger a cathartic purification in the audience. Viennese Actionism was born in the early 1960s from the convergence of Nitsch’s vision and those of Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, representing the most controversial expression of body art in Europe. In the following years, Nitsch presented numerous performative actions in Vienna, which aroused protests and scandal. Uniting symbols such as the crucifixion and the immaculate conception, as well as blood, nudity, bodily fluids, and animal carcasses, earned him numerous convictions for indecency. Enthusiastic recognition for his work only came from the international scene with his participation in Gustav Metzger’s “Destruction in Art Symposium” in London in 1966 and especially in New York at the invitation of Jonas Mekas, with the overwhelming support of many Fluxus artists. In 1971, thanks to Nitsch’s beloved wife Beate, he acquired the Prinzendorf Castle, nestled among vineyards. The following year, he was invited by Harald Szeemann to participate in documenta 5. On this occasion, Nitsch met Francesco Conz, the first collector to support him financially through numerous acquisitions. Parallel to several international appearances, the Prinzendorf Castle became the theater where Nitsch presented his most famous actions, such as the monumental 6-Day Play (1998) and the 120. Aktion (2004). Nitsch worked as a set and costume designer for major plays, such as Philip Glass’s Satyagraha at the Festspielhaus St. Pölten in Lower Austria (2001) and Olivier Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich (2011). Despite bitter controversies throughout his career, he exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2012), the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2012), and the Tate Modern in London (2012), as well as at numerous other institutions around the world.

Artworks (7)