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Hermann Nitsch

Selected Paintings, Actions, Relics, and Musical Scores, 1962–2020

Mar 17 – Apr 29, 2023
New York
Exhibition Details:

Hermann Nitsch
Selected Paintings, Actions, Relics, and Musical Scores, 1962–2020
Mar 17 – Apr 29, 2023


510 West 25th Street
New York

Pace Live:

Miles Greenberg
Fountain II
Friday, Mar 17
Saturday, Mar 18
Friday, Mar 24
Saturday, Mar 25
12 – 6 PM
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Press Release


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Above: Installation view, Hermann Nitsch: Selected Paintings, Actions, Relics, and Musical Scores, 1962–2020, Mar 17 – Apr 29, 2023, Pace Gallery, New York © Hermann Nitsch Foundation

Pace is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings, photographs, relics, and musical scores by Hermann Nitsch at its 510 West 25th Street gallery in New York.

This will be Pace’s first show—and the first planned posthumous exhibition—dedicated to Nitsch, a founder of the Viennese Actionism movement who died last year at age 83. On view from March 17 to April 29, the exhibition will be accompanied by the premiere of a new performance and installation by artist Miles Greenberg, presented by Pace Live. Performances on March 17, 18, 24, and 25 will complement and speak to Nitsch’s oeuvre, and Greenberg’s presentation, titled Fountain II, will situate Nitsch’s experimental practice within a contemporary context.

On the occasion of the exhibition, Pace Publishing, in collaboration with the Nitsch Foundation, will produce the first English translation of Nitsch’s autobiography, an oral history of the artist’s life that he first published in 1995 (second edition 2005, third edition 2018).

Over the course of more than 60 years, Nitsch cultivated an intensive practice that spans performance, painting, drawing, printmaking, film, photography, music, poetry, and philosophy. A leading figure of the Austrian avant- garde, Nitsch was a 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. A key art historical figure in Europe, Nitsch has been cited as an influence by Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, and other major American artists.

Nitsch’s extensive performance work often features nudity, multifarious noises, and enactments of tragedy in explorations of 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.

In summer 2022, an extended version of the 6-Day-Play of the Orgies Mysteries Theatre, first performed in full in 1998, was staged at Austria’s Prinzendorf Castle, which the artist purchased in 1971 and used as a set for his ambitious performances. This extended performance has a strong emphasis on music. Also last year, Nitsch’s 20th Painting Action works, which he first presented in the Wiener Secession in 1987, were shown at Oficine 800 on the island of Giudecca, Venice during the 59th Venice Biennale.

Pace’s upcoming exhibition will bring together works created by Nitsch between 1962 and 2020, offering a holistic survey of his painting and photography practices. In his paintings, the artist often incorporated splatters and splashes of oil or acrylic sometimes mixed with blood, producing visceral and evocative abstractions through a highly physical and gestural process. Nitsch understood his painting actions as the visual grammar of his theatrical actions, applied to a picture plane. The gallery’s presentation will include a selection of Nitsch’s large-scale paintings as well as two vibrant works on paper that the artist created in 2020—these dynamic abstractions featuring mesmeric plays of color and line speak to Nitsch’s formal explorations in his late career.

The show will also feature three photo collages that chronicle a so-called Penis Irrigation Action staged in Nitsch’s Vienna apartment over the course of four hours in January 1965. These works reflect the artist’s interest in uniting the mediums of photography, painting, and performance in a singular body of work. Hermann Nitsch: Selected Paintings, Actions, Relics, and Musical Scores, 1962–2020 has been curated by Mark Beasley, Curator and Director at Pace Gallery, Valentina Volchkova, Senior Vice President at Pace Gallery; and Gudrun Marecek, Managing Director of the Nitsch Foundation, Vienna.

On the occasion of the exhibition, Pace Live—the gallery’s interdisciplinary platform for commissioning and presenting new live art performances, musical acts, and other events—will premiere Fountain II, a new durational performance and installation by Miles Greenberg. On view and performed alongside Nitsch’s work during the first weeks of the exhibition’s run, Fountain II expands upon Greenberg’s initial performance from 2022, Fountain I, which was heavily inspired by the late Viennese actionist painter and resulted in sculptures that were presented in a two- person exhibition at the New Museum in New York during the fall of 2022. Greenberg has nurtured a practice that spans performance and sculpture, activating his large-scale, immersive, and site-specific environments with durational, poetic productions. A protégé of Marina Abramović, who participated in Nitsch’s 50th action in 1975, Greenberg has been deeply influenced by Nitsch, and he attended the performance of the 6-Day-Play at Prinzendorf Castle last summer.

In Fountain II, two performers will stand atop a plinth surrounded by a pool of blood-red water. The performers will engage in a sustained and choreographed embrace over the course of 6 hours, with dyed water hemorrhaging from their bodies onto the plinth and into pool below. The work serves as a poem about the final stages of heartbreak— when one turns their entire body inside out to reach a sort of ecstasy. The visceral, poetic, and graphic work transcends gore, existing in the space of the surreal. Four performances of Fountain II will be held at Pace, with Greenberg figuring in a selection of these presentations. The durational performance will be set against a backdrop of Nitsch’s paintings, conjuring new connections between contemporary and 20th century performance. The gallery’s staging of Fountain II as part of its Nitsch exhibition continues its enduring interest in and support of experimental performance, both contemporary and historical.

Following Pace’s Nitsch exhibition, another iteration of the 6-Day-Play (Day 3, The Day of Dionysus) will be staged at Prinzendorf Castle in Austria from May 28 to 29 this year. This fall, the artist’s work will be exhibited in the Museum at St. Peter an der Sperr, a secularized church in Austria, as part of a presentation of the Trenker Collection. On October 31, Nitsch’s IX Symphony (“The Egyptian”) will be performed for the first time in the Golden Hall at Musikverein Vienna. Later this year, the artist’s work will be included in a group show at the British Museum in London.

Exhibition Film

Miles Greenberg on the Legacy of Hermann Nitsch

In our new film, artist Miles Greenberg discusses the legacy of Hermann Nitsch in the context of his new durational performance and installation Fountain II. A protégé of Marina Abramović, who participated in Nitsch’s 50th action in 1975, Greenberg has been deeply influenced by the Austrian artist.


Featured Works

Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild, 1989, oil on jute, 200 cm × 300 cm (78-3/4" × 9' 10-1/8")
Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild, 1992, Oil and blood on jute, 270 cm × 300 cm (8' 10-5/16" × 9' 10-1/8")
Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild, 1991, Oil and blood on jute, 200 cm × 300 cm (78-3/4" × 9' 10-1/8")

Installation Views


About the Artist

Hermann Nitsch 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.

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