Hermann Nitsch Died the Day Before His Bloody Venice Exhibition
Nitsch poured and splattered blood, viscera, and paint in art actions that sought to foreground sensory experience.
Hermann Nitsch, 20th Painting Action. Installation view at Fondamenta S. Biagio, Venice, 2022. Courtesy Nitsch Foundation.
Austrian action artist Hermann Nitsch died at age 83 on 18 April, the same day VIPs attended a dinner in Venice to celebrate the exhibition of his 20th Painting Action (1987).
In a statement, the Nitsch Foundation said, 'We deeply mourn the death of Hermann Nitsch not only for his contributions to the world as an actionist, painter, graphic artist, and composer, but also as a husband, father, friend, mentor, and companion.'
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen testified to the artist's importance, tweeting, 'His work will live on, I'm sure of it.'
Nitsch's 20th Painting Action exhibition continues until 20 July at Fondamenta S. Biagio, a 19th-century warehouse that faces the Canale della Giudecca, where poured and splattered red paint covers the walls and floor.
With the work, Nitsch said, 'I wanted to show how the spilling, squirting, smearing, and splashing of red-coloured liquid can evoke a sensorily intense arousal in the viewer, inviting sensorily intense sensations.'
Nitsch created the work at the Vienna Secession Building, which was built in 1897 to exhibit works by artists such as Gustav Klimt and Joseph Maria Olbrich following their break from the official Vienna Academy of the Arts.
In his lifetime, Nitsch likewise sought to push artistic boundaries, bridging painting, performance, and ritual, incorporating materials such as peaches, tomatoes, sugar cubes, and flowers, as well as blood and guts.
As part of his 'total work of art' the Orgies Mysteries Theatre, Nitsch created a six-day play. The first part of the play will be performed on July 30 and 31 at Prinzendorf Castle, which his wife Beate purchased in 1971.
First performed in 1975, the play incorporates up to 500 performers, blood, faeces, viscera, incense, vinegar, milk, urine, petrol, turpentine, ammonia, and 13,000 litres of wine in an experience that seeks to transcend language.
'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,' Nitsch said. —[O]