The Nitsch Foundation, has announced the sad news of Hermann Nitsch’s death at age 83 on April 18, 2022. Nitsch was known as a multidisciplinary artist, an actionist, painter, graphic artist and composer. He was unable to attend the opening of his show at the 59th Venice Biennale because of a serious illness. The exhibition of his 20th Painting Action during the Biennale is on display until November. Nitsch was guided throughout his life by the intense, life-affirming philosophy that “everything that ever was and ever will be is to be.” It will keep his work eternally alive.
The 6-Day-Play of the O.M. Theatre aims to be the greatest and most important celebration of peoples—it is an aesthetic ritual glorifying existence – HN
Hermann Nitsch was respected for his practice that encompasses performance, painting, musical composition, and more. Having trained at Vienna’s Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in the 1950s, the artist became a pioneer of the city’s avant-garde scene in the 1960s and 1970s, staging radical and controversial performances as part of the Viennese Actionism movement. The artist’s work in performance and painting, which has incorporated blood, flesh, and other materials, has itself become a kind of religious practice. He conceived his famed Orgies Mysteries Theatre in the 1950s, and the expansive, sensorial performance has since been realized as the 6-Day-Play. In the early years of his painting practice, Nitsch created Action paintings by splattering paint onto canvases, and some of his paintings from the 1960s also feature fabric and blood.
Additionally, the artist created graphic prints that examine the labyrinthine makeup of the human body, which he has described as “the architecture of the O.M. Theatre,” since the 1970s. During the 1990s, Nitsch began adding paint and blood splashes to his printing process, establishing a dialogue with his works on canvas.
Nitsch’s extensive performance work often featured nudity, multifarious noises, and enactments of tragedy as part of explorations of spiritual rituals and primordial urges. The artist’s seminal work is the large-scale, six-day Orgies Mysteries Theatre, which he began developing in the mid-1950s. For this work, the artist drew inspiration from literature, art, music, and philosophy to produce “a total work of art” that engages all five senses. In the Orgies Mysteries Theatre, Nitsch incorporates substances like blood and meat to elicit intense and varied reactions from viewers. The work, which was first performed in full as the 6-Day-Play in Prinzendorf, Austria in 1998, centers the celebration of being. With the performance, life itself becomes an aesthetically heightened artwork.
Over the course of his career, Nitsch exhibited work at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Leopold Museum, Vienna; the Albertina Museum, Vienna; and other institutions worldwide. His performances have also been staged internationally at venues in Vienna, New York, London, Havana, Leipzig, Hobart, and elsewhere. Nitsch lives and works at Prinzendorf Castle on the Zaya River in Lower Austria and in Asolo, Italy.
Top Photo: Hermann Nitsch, 20th painting action, 18.2.1987, Secession, Vienna © Hermann Nitsch Foundation