Hermann Nitsch joins Pace Gallery

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Hermann Nitsch joins Pace Gallery
Hermann Nitsch, action painting from the 20th painting action, 18.2.1987, Secession, Vienna, dispersion paint on canvas, 200 x 177.5 cm, 1987 © Hermann Nitsch Foundation.

NEW YORK, NY.- Pace announced its global representation of Hermann Nitsch in collaboration with the Nitsch Foundation and Galerie Kandlhofer. The gallery will present its first solo exhibition of Nitsch’s work in New York in 2023.

Over the course of more than 60 years, Nitsch has cultivated an intensive practice that spans performance, painting, drawing, printmaking, film, photography, and music. A leading figure of the Austrian avant-garde, Nitsch was a co-founder of the Viennese Actionism movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The disruptive ethos of this movement brought irreverent performance work to the forefront of Vienna’s art scene in the latter half of the 20th century.

Pace’s representation of Nitsch aligns with its long history of supporting artists working in performance, including Claes Oldenburg, who in the late 1950s and early 1960s created immersive and madcap Happenings involving live theater, art objects, sound, and other elements. Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, and Robert Rauschenberg also played a key part in the development of performance art in the 20th century and in Pace’s history. The gallery’s presentations of work by Nitsch will build on this legacy and expand its contemporary program in Europe.

Nitsch’s extensive performance work often features 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.

This summer, the 6-Day-Play will be restaged at Austria’s Prinzendorf Castle, which the artist purchased in 1971 and has since used as a stage for his ambitious performances, for the first time since 1998. Running from July 25 to 30, the presentation of the 6-Day-Play will be preceded by a panel discussion about the performance at the Nitsch Museum in Mistelbach, Austria in June.

The artist’s 20th Painting Action works, which he first presented in the Wiener Secession in 1987, will be shown at Oficine 800 on the island of Giudecca, Venice during the 59th Venice Biennale. On view from April 19 to July 20, the exhibition marks the first time that Nitsch’s experiential 20th Painting Action works will be displayed together in Italy. The show is organized by Zuecca Projects and presented by Helmut Essl’s private collection. The artist often incorporates splatters and splashes in his paintings, forging stirring abstractions through a highly physical and gestural process.

Among Nitsch’s other forthcoming projects is a solo exhibition at the Musée de L’Orangerie in Paris in fall 2022.

Pace President and CEO Marc Glimcher says: “Hermann Nitsch has made hugely important contributions to the history of performance through his audacious, multifaceted, and transportive productions. We’re thrilled to welcome the artist to the gallery, whose legacy in performance has long been associated with Claes Oldenburg’s storied Happenings and famed live presentations by Alexander Calder and Jean Dubuffet. Today, through our Pace Live platform, the gallery foregrounds newly commissioned live art performances as part of its global program. Pace’s new representation of artists Lee KunYong and Paulina Olowska also reflects its deep and enduring interest in experimental performance. We look forward to presenting Nitsch’s historical and recent works at our New York gallery in 2023, highlighting his achievements for an American audience and situating his practice within contemporary conversations.”

Nitsch’s work is part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate, London; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and other international institutions. The artist’s work can also be found at the Nitsch Foundation in Vienna and the Nitsch Museums in Mistelbach, Austria and Naples, Italy.

Hermann Nitsch (b. 1938, Vienna, Austria) is known for his interdisciplinary 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 has been creating 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. Over the course of his career, Nitsch has 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.

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