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Viennese Actionism - The Hummel Collection
Otto Muehl, Poster for Direct Art Happening, 9 November 1967. Siebdruck auf Papier, Porrhaus, Wien, Courtesy Sammlung Hummel, Wien © VBK Wien, 2006.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA.-The event “Art and Revolution” that involved Viennese Actionists GŁnter Brus and Otto Muehl and took place in 1968 at the University of Vienna went down in Austrian history as the biggest art scandal during the Second Republic. Brus, Muehl, and Oswald Wiener, the main protagonists of the happening derisively labeled as “college smut” by the tabloids, had to leave Austria as they faced criminal charges. Almost forty years later, Viennese Actionism has proved to be one of the most significant Austrian contributions to international avant-garde movements. MUMOK owns one of the largest collections devoted to this trend, and has established itself as an international competence center for Viennese Actionism, particularly thanks to the purchase of the Friedrichhof Archive in 2003, including original documents, Action photographs, and film footage.

Austrian gallery owner Julius Hummel has compiled a multi-faceted and representative private collection of Viennese Actionism, and MUMOK is pleased to mount this show to highlight Julius Hummel’s personal commitment. From the outset, he has been fascinated by the radicalism of this art whose potential he recognized early on. He was convinced that Actionism stood smack in the center of revolutionary developments unfolding in international art.

The artists who formed the grouping of Viennese Actionists in the early 1960s included GŁnter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muehl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Surrounded by a conservative political environment, they staged their Actions to overcome traditionalist and academically imbued art concepts. They were striving for new forms of expression and devised various concepts according to which contemporary abstract and informal painting was to be expanded or surmounted by performances. Radically and consistently, they mingled art and life, focusing on the body as a “field of action” and “material”.

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