Hermann Nitsch (Austrian, b.1938) is a painter, performance artist, writer, and composer, and one of the four members of the Viennese Actionist (or Wiener Aktionismus) movement. The other Viennese Actionists are Otto Muehl (Austrian, b.1925), Günter Brus (Austrian, b.1938), and Rudolf Schwarzkogler (Austrian, 1940–1969). Nitsch began as a graphic artist after studying graphic design in Vienna, but turned to painting in the 1950s under the influence of Tachism and Abstract Expressionism. He was inspired by the works of Paul Cézanne (French, 1939–1906) and Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862–1918), among others.

In 1957, Nitsch came up with the idea for his Orgien Mysterien Theater, a long festival that was inspired by psychological studies and Dionysian orgies, among other influences, with works that involve all five senses. His performances involved, and still involve, the appearance of pagan ceremony, with robed processions, people drinking blood, animal sacrifices, and more. Most of his works—many of them in oil and acrylic—come from what remained after his performances ended. Some of his important paintings include Aktion Painting - Fresco (1981), The Last Supper (1976–1979), and a series of splatter paintings. His performances took place in Vienna at first and resulted in three jail terms. In 1960, he moved to Germany, where he remained until 1978.

Nitsch has staged performances in the United States, in New York and Cincinnati, and in Germany, in Munich and Cologne, among other places. He held his first 12-hour action at the Mercer Art Center in New York in 1972. In 1989, he taught interdisciplinary art at the Frankfurt Academy of Fine Arts. Between 1991 and 1993, his work was exhibited in new countries, with exhibitions in Trieste, Italy, Seville, Spain, and Prague, Czech Republic. A major retrospective of his works was held at the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg, Austria, in 2003, and another at Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin in 2006. In 2007, he opened the Hermann Nitsch Museum in Mistelbach, Austria. His work is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and in many other galleries in North America and Europe.

Timeline

1938
Born in Vienna
1953–1954
Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, Vienna
1957
Assistant at the Technical Museum, Vienna
1957
Creates the concept of the Orgies Mysteries Theater, a six day event that continues to captivate him throughout his career
1960–1966
Actions and exhibitions resulting in various court trials and three prison sentences, Vienna, Austria
1985
Würdigungspreis für Kunst by the Austriam Ministry of Education and Art
1985
Visiting Professor at the Academy of Art, Hamburg
1989
Since 1989 teaches at the summer-academy, Salzburg
1989
Teacher at the Academy of Visual Arts, Frankfurt
1989–2003
Teaches at the Städelschule in Frankfurt (class for interdisciplinary art)
Lives and works in Prinzendorf

Exhibitions

2013
Through a Glass Darkly: Faces Past and Present, Ernst Museum, Budapest, Hungary
2013
Senses and Being—Retrospective, Nitsch Museum, Mistelbach, Austria (solo)
2013
Personal Structures, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Italy
2013
East Building Opening, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO
2013
Flesh and Blood, Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel
2012
Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation New Acquisitions and Prints, Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ
2012
135th Action at the 11th Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba (forthcoming)
2012
Explosion: Painting as Action, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
2012
Gold, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria
2012
Levitikus, Thoman modern, Innsbruck, Austria (solo)
2012
Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland
2012
A Bigger Splash: Painting After Performance, Tate Modern, London, England
2012
About Caravaggio, Visioni & Illusioni Contemporanee, Scuderie Aldobrandini, Museo Tuscolano Frascati, Rome, Italy
2012
The Nature of Disappearance: Part 2 (Curated by Dieter Buchhart), Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NY
2011–2012
Strukturen, Leopold Museum Wien, Vienna, Austria
2011
Hermann Nitsch in Munich, Galerie Thomas Modern, Munich, Germany (solo)
2011
Personal Structures, 54. Venice Biennial, Palazzo Bembo, Venice
2011
Hermann Nitsch Die Apotheke / The Pharmacy, Leo Koenig Inc., New York, NY (in collaboration with Mike Weiss Gallery) (solo)
2011
Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
2011
Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation, Jersey City, NJ
2011
Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
2011
L'Insoutenable Legerete de l etre, Yvon Lambert Gallery, New York and Paris
2011
60.Painting Action // 60.Malaktion, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2011
Bloodlines: Paintings by Hermann Nitsch, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Colorado (solo)
2010
New Acquisitions, Musee d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, France
2010
Hermann Nitsch, Musee d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, France (solo)
2010
Personal Structures. Time-Space Existence, Kunstlerhaus Bregenz, Austria (solo)
2010
Hermann Nitsch Masterpieces of the Duerckheim Collection, Museumszentrum, Mistlebach, Austria (solo)
2010
Pentecost celebration: 130. Aktion, Hermann Nitsch Museum, Naples, Italy (solo)
2010
Das Orgien Mysterien Theater, Stella Art Foundation, Moscow, Russia (solo)
2010
Smelling, Nitsch Foundation, Vienna, Austria (solo)
2009
Opening, Nitsch Foundation, Vienna, Austria (solo)
2009
Dirimart Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey (solo)
2009
Stations of the Cross, De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, Netherlands
2009
Works of the 56. Action Painting by Hermann Nitsch, Museumszentrum Mistlebach, Austria (solo)
2009
45 Jahre Hermann Nitsch, Nitsch Foundation in den Kavernen 1595, Salzburg, Austria
2009
The Past, the Present, and the Disciples of Nitsch, Box Art Galleria d'Arte, Verona, Italy
2009
Hermann Nitsch, Galleria Sant Agostino Casa d'Aste, Turin, Italy (solo)
2009
An Open Window on the World of Art, Galleria Civica dArts Moderna e Contemporanea, Torino, Italy
2009
Stations of the Cross, De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands
2008
Galerie Fortlaan, Ghent, Belgium (group)
2008
Triennale Yokohama, Tokio (group)
2008
Galerie Lelong, Zurich (solo)
2008
Galerie Weihergut, Salzburg, Austria (solo)
2008
Yamamoto Gendai, Tokio (solo)
2008
Opening of Museo Archivio Labratorio Hermann Nitsch Neapel (solo)
2008
Fondazione Morra, Neapel (solo)
2008
Form as Strategy, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University, New York
2008
Five Year Anniversary Show, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY
2008
Ebb and Flow, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY
2007
Opening of Hermann Nitsch Museums, Mistelbach, Austria (solo)
2007
Galerie Hilger, Vienna (solo)
2007
The Orgies Mysteries Theater, Galleria de foscherari, Bologna, Italy (solo)
2007
Galerie publicbeaumont, Paris (solo)
2007
Box art galleria d' arte, Verona, Italy (solo)
2007
Marina di Ravenna, sale espositive Park Hotel, Ravenna, Italy (solo)
2007
Fondazione Morra, Naples, Italy (solo)
2007
Galerie Fortlaan 17, Ghent, Belgium (solo)
2007
Fondazione Morra, Neapel, Italy (solo)
2006
Galerie Curtze, Vienna (solo)
2006
Primo Piano Livingallery, Lecce, Italy (solo)
2006
Galerie Weihergut, Salzburg, Austria (solo)
2006
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (solo)
2006
Mike Weiss Gallery, New York (solo)
2006
Galerie Yamamoto Genday, Tokyo (solo)
2006
Galerie White Space, Peking (solo)
2006
Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg (group)
2006
Eye on Europe: Prints, Books and Multiples / 1960 to Now, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
2006
Twice Drawn, Tang Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, NY
2006
Retrospective, Nationalgalerie Staaliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany
2006
Realm of the Spirit, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY
2006
Reverence, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY
2006
Intensive Painting, Galerie Bertrand & Gruner, Geneva
2006
Hermann Nitsch and Erika Schmied, Galerie 422 Margund Lossl, Gmunden, Austria
2005
Entourage, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY
2005
The Orgies Mysteries Theater, The Station Museum, Houston TX (solo)
2005
Le renard, Staatoper Wien, Vienna (solo)
2005
Saatchi Gallery, London (solo)
2005
Performance: Burgtheater, Vienna
2005
Arte contemporaneo austriaco y pintura de la posguerra, Mexico City (group)
2005
Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, USA
2005
Station Museum of Contemporary Art Houston, Texas, USA (solo)
2005
Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria
2004
Mike Weiss Gallery, New York (solo)
2004
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Wien
2004
Performance: 2-Tages-Spiel des Orgien Mysterien Theaters, Schloss Prinzendorf, Austria
2004
Haus der Musik, Vienna
2004
Brucknerhaus, Linz, Austria
2004
Galerie Curtze, Vienna
2004
Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY
2004
Graphische Sammlung im Stadelmuseum, Frankfurt, Germany (solo)
2004
Site Santa Fe Biennial, Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
2004
Tango, Mike Weiss Gallery, New York, NY
2003
Art Scarplin, Merano, Italy (solo)
2003
Fondazione Morra, Naples, Italy (solo)
2003
Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Germany (solo)
2003
Good Morning Balkan, Athens, Greece
2003
Retrospective, Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg (solo)
2002
Fondazione Morra, Naples, Italy (solo)
2002
Gallery Fortlaan, Ghent, Belgium (solo)
2002
20 years Galerie Steinek, Vienna (group)
2001
Oberes Belevedere, Vienna, Austria (solo)
2001
Hurlimannareal, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
2001
Haburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany (solo)
2000
White Box Gallery Philadelphia
2000
Palazzo Steline, Milan, Italy
2000
Galleria Communale D'Arte Moderna e Contemoranea, Rome, Italy (solo)
2000
Paradise Lost, Stephansstift, Hannover, Germany
2000
Faith, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CN
2000
6 Views of the 6-Day-Play, Video Presentation, Barnsdall Art Park
2000
Gallery Theater, Los Angeles, CA
1999–2000
Das. 20 Jahrhundert - Ein Jahrhundert Kunst in Deutschland, Nationalgalerie Berlin
1999
Mumok, Vienna, Austria
1999
Kiscelli Museum, Budapest, Hungary
1999
White Box Gallery, New York, NY
1998
Out of Actions—Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979, MoCA, Los Angeles, CA
1998
Beyond the Pink, Video Presentation, Art Center, Pasadena, CA
1998
Galerie Frank Hanel, Frankfurt, Germany (solo)
1997
Retrospective, Konsthallen Goteborg, Sweden (solo)
1997
Retrospective, Musee D'Art et D'Histoire, Luxembourg (solo)
1997
St. Peter an der Sperr, Wiener Neustadt, Austria (solo)
1997
Galerie Beaumont, Luxembourg (solo)
1997
Neue Galerie der Stadt, Linz, Austria (solo)
1997
Underwoodstreet Gallery, London, England (solo)
1997
Kunstraum, Innsbruck, Austria (solo)
1997
Galerie Prantl, Oberlech, Austria (solo)
1997
Die Epoche der Moderne, Kunst im 20. Jhdt., Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany
1997
Sinnlicher Sommer, Künstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria
1997
Body, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
1997
Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England
1996
Galerie Stefania Miscetti, Rome, Italy (solo)
1996
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Worlen, Passau, Germany (solo)
1996
Palazzo delle Exposizioni, Retrospective, Rome, Italy (solo)
1996
Kunstverein Gmunden, Hipp-Halle, Austria (solo)
1996
Retrospective, Sala Parpallo, Valencia, Spain (solo)
1996
Retrospective, Sala Parpallo, Valencia, Spain (solo)
1996
Galerie Giuseppe Morra, Fondazione Morra, Naples, Italy (solo)
1996
Retrospective, Casal Solleric, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (solo)
1995
Retrospektivausstellung, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria (solo)
1995
Galerie Barlach, Halle-K, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
1995
Ausstellung und Aktion in der Trinitatiskirche, Koln, Germany (solo)

Public Collections

Guggenheim, New York
Kunstmuseum, Winterthur
The Richard Massey Foundation, New York
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Wolfgang Gurlitt Museum, Linz
Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut
Rupertinum, Salzburg
Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg
Sammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
Schloss Moorsbroich, Leverkusen
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
Tate Gallery, London
The Marino Golinelli Collection, Bologna
Kunstmuseum, Winterthur
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
MoMA, New York
Musee Centre George Pompidou, Paris
Museo Capodimonte, Naples
Museum Ludwig Köln Lenbachhaus, Munich
Museum Moderner Kunst-Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna
Museum Neue Galerie, Saarbrücken
Nationalgalerie, Berlin
Nationalgalerie, Munich
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Boston
Castello di Rivoli, Turin
Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation, New York
Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, New York
Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck
Galleria D’Arte Moderna, Bologna
Graphische Sammlung, Munich
Kunsthalle, Hamburg
Kunstmuseum, Bern

Literature

2012
Ponce, Mildry. Action 135: Proposal of Austrian Artist Hermann Nitsch at the Havana Biennial, Cubanow.net, May 21, 2012
2011
Hermann Nitsch's graphic art at the Vienna Leopold Museum, Yahoo News, November, 2011
2011
Haden-Guest, Anthony. High Performance, The Art Economist , May 2011
2011
Vaeth, Sarah. Hermann Nitsch at MCA Denver, ARTWRIT, May 2011
2011
McClemont, Doug. Hermann Nitsch - Mike Weiss Gallery, ARTnews, May 2011
2011
Kuspit, Donald. Hermann Nitsch - Mike Weiss Gallery, ARTFORUM, May 2011
2011
Mulvihill, Evan. Bash Compactor: Gutsy Art, New York Press, March 30, 2011
2011
Rosenberg, Judy; Corrado, Damen. Eternal Laughter: Hermann Nitsch 60. Painting Action, Imperium Pictures, March 4, 2011
2011
Best Events, ReadyMade, February 24, 2011
2011
Rothberg, Rebecca. Hermann Nitsch Rises Again, On-Verge, February 21, 2011
2011
Schultz, Charlie. Maestro in Action, ArtSlant, February 20, 2011
2011
Miller, Leigh Anne. Hermann Nitsch Takes Action, With Help From Friends, Art in America, February 16, 2011
2011
Kalm, James. Hermann Nitsch 60 Painting Action at Mike Weiss Gallery, Art Review, February 17, 2011
2011
Maliszewski, Lynn. Experiencing Hermann Nitsch’s First Live Action in the US, Hyperallergic, February 16, 2011
2011
Vartanian, Hrag. A Few Moments at Hermann Nitsch’s Chelsea Event, Hyperallergic, February 17, 2011
2011
Gusky, Bill. Hermann Nitsch, Artblog Comments, February 19, 2011
2011
Hermann Nitsch: Extension 2, Contemporaneousextension.com, February 24, 2011
2011
Hermann Nitsch: Extension 1, Contemporaneousextension.com, February 16, 2011
2011
Hosch, Rainer. Hermann Nitsch 60. Malaktion Part 1, In case you were wondering…, February 24, 2011
2007
Hermann Nitsch get his own museum, The Art Newspaper, June 2007, illus.
2006
Ayers, Robert. The AI Interview: Hermann Nitsch, www.artinfo.com, November 2006, illus.
2006
Föl, Heike. Hermann Nitsch, Martin-Gropius-Bau, ARTFORUM, January 2007, illus
2005
Cotter, Holland. Walker Art Center Probes Created Fringes and Finds New Stars, The New York Times, Friday, April 15, 2005, illus.
2005
Riding, Alan. Powerful Collector Changes Course, The New York Times, Saturday, January 29, 2005, illus.
2004
Raymond, Jonathan. Hermann Nitsch, Mike Weiss Gallery, ARTFORUM, May 2004, illus.
1998
Smith, Roberta. When Art Became a Stage and Artists Actors, The New York Times, April 5, 1998, illus.