Viennese Actionism Artist Günter Brus Dies Aged 85

Günter Brus

Günter Brus, the pioneering Austrian artist known for his exploration of the human body and his profound contributions to Viennese Actionism, has passed away at the age of 85.

Born in Ardning, Styria, in 1938, Brus’s journey into the art world began with his education at the School of Arts and Crafts in Graz and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. It was during this time that he forged connections with fellow artists who would come to define the Viennese Actionism movement, including Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler.

Brus’s artistic evolution mirrored the tumultuous shifts of the 1960s, marked by a transition from formal drawing and painting to a radical engagement with the body as a medium of artistic expression. His groundbreaking actions, such as “Ana” in 1964 and “Art and Revolution” in 1968, challenged societal norms and provoked intense reactions, including legal repercussions that forced him to flee to Berlin.

Throughout his career, Brus’s work delved into themes of body, destruction, and the boundaries of art itself. His actions, often characterized by self-mutilation and visceral performance, pushed the limits of what was considered acceptable in the art world.

In the 1970s, Brus turned to drawing once again, exploring complex graphic language games and venturing into lyrical works and image-text cycles. His contributions to the intersection of visual art and poetry expanded his artistic oeuvre and solidified his legacy as a multifaceted creative force.

Brus’s impact extended far beyond Austria, earning him prestigious awards such as the Great Austrian Prize of the State for Applied Arts and the Oskar Kokoschka Prize. His works can be found in esteemed institutions worldwide, including the Belvedere Museum, MAK, MUMOK, and the MAC Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseille.

In 2008, Brus laid the foundation for the “Bruseum,” a museum dedicated to his life and work at the Neue Galerie Graz, ensuring that his legacy would endure for generations to come.

As a pivotal figure in performance art, Brus revolutionised the body’s role in artistic expression during the 1960s, causing public uproar. At age 80, The Belvedere in Vienna hosted a retrospective celebrating his diverse body of work.

Initially, Brus utilised the body as a canvas for his early paintings, but later, his performances critiqued societal norms, projecting onto the body itself. After a prison sentence stemming from his involvement in the 1970 Viennese Kunst und Revolution event, he sought refuge in Berlin. There, he continued creating numerous drawing cycles inspired by his Vienna experiences, while also delving into playwriting.

Günter Brus leaves behind a rich and complex body of work that continues to challenge and inspire artists and audiences around the world, cementing his place as a visionary of the avant-garde.

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