Hermann Nitsch was born in Wien in 1938. He was one of the most important artists of the Actionist movement in Wien. While studying graphic illustration, he became interested in religious art. He made copies from Rembrandt's “100 Gulden Blatt” and “Christ Crucified”, and from other religious themes by artists such as Tintoretto and El Greco. He was strongly influenced by Cézanne, Klimt and Munch. From 1957 onwards, the depiction of Dionysian revelry and ceremonies began to feature in his work. In 1957, Hermann Nitsch conceived an idea for a radical theatre, which he called the “Orgien Mysterien Theater”. The O.M. Theatre took its shape from ideas about Aristotelian catharsis, Freudian psychology, conventional theatre and Dionysic orges. It is an attempt to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, a 'total art', a mystical experience that involves all senses. The first performances of the “O.M. Theatre” consisted of Hermann Nitsch and friends using animal carcasses, entrails and blood in a ritualistic way. Cloths, bandages and other fabrics used in these performances introduced Nitsch to the idea of making paintings. 1960 saw the first exhibition of his “Aktion” paintings in Wien.
In 1961 he organized with Günter Brus, Alfons Schilling, Otto Muel and Adolf Frohner, the artistic group “Wiener Aktionismus”, Art in action, bringing to Austria the expressionist style together with dramatic themes and gestural painting. The first Action was called Blood Organ and was represented in 1962 in Wien. It lasted 30 minutes. A man was bound and covered with a white sheet and the artist throw on him blood which consequently slide on the ground and the sheet. This way of making artworks is re utilized by the artists in his future artworks “Shuettbitter” or poured paintings. Nitsch considered that theater, sculpture and paintings are strictly linked. In his performances he discovered always hidden and pent-up instincts. During the period in which the artist lived in Wien, his use of taboo images put him out of favour with the authorities. His “Aktions” were closed down by the police. Hermann Nitsch spent some time in prison for blasphemy and provoking scandals. In 1968 Jonas Mekas invited him to New York, where he met the Fluxus performance artists. He staged “Aktions” in the streets of New York, as well as at the Judson Church & Cinematheque.
In 1971 Hermann Nitsch bought Prinzendorf castle in the wine-producing area of northern Austria, so that it might become a centre for the activities of the “O.M. Theatre”. During that time he staged performances and exhibitions in Italy, France, the US and Germany. The artist start to compose himself some music that became increasingly prominent in his performances. In 1972 he participated in Documenta V, Kassel, and staged “Aktions” at the Mercer Center and Everson Museum of Art. In 1984, Hermann Nitsch staged a performance that lasted three days and three nights at Prinzendorf. In 1988 he married Rita Leitenbor. In 1989 he began teaching at the Arts Academy in Frankfurt and in the mid-90's he co-directed and designed the set for the opera Herodiade by Jules Massenet at the Wien State Opera. In 1996 he performed an “Aktions” in the wine-yards of San Martino (Naples), and in 1998 staged the 6-day play in Prinzendorf, an “Aktions” that Hermann Nitsch sees as the greatest achievement of his career.
In 2005 he won the Austrian State Prize at Burgteather in Wien for the Aktion 122. In 2007 Mistelbach opened a dedicated museum: the Hermann Nitsch Museum and in 2008 Fondazione Morra in Naples opened the Museum Archive Laboratory for Contemporary Arts Hermann Nitsch

 

1938 born in vienna
1957 develops the idea of the orgien mysterien theatre, a six days long festival whose conception is based on the main artist philosophy and that has been developing till today. the o.m.-theater is a new form of a total work of art where reality is staged. all five senses of the participants are claimed.
1960 aktionen (action performances) and exhibitions take place in vienna, which result in several court trials and three prison terms. therefore he leaves austria and moves to germany where he lives till 1978.
1962 1th "aktion" in vienna
1966 the destruction in art symposium (dias), london, 20th action, vienna
1968 cinématheque, new york, performance of the 25th and 26th action; university of cincinnati, 28th action, moves to bayern, germany, marriage in munich with beate könig
1970 other "aktionen" in new york, munich and cologne
1971 acquisition of prinzendorf castle (stage of the 6 day play)
1972 participates at the documenta 5, kassel curated by harald szeemann; first 12-hour-action (40th action) at the mercer art center in new york
1973 found of the "association for the promotion of the om theatre"
1975 the 24-hour 50th action is performed in prinzendorf
1977 beate nitsch dies in a car accident
1982 participates at the documenta 7, kassel
1983 exhibition: stedelijk van-abbe museum, eindhoven
1984 80th action: three days play, prinzendorf
1987 20th painting performance at the wiener secession, vienna
1988 marriage with rita leitenbor; exhibition: städtische galerie im lenbachhaus, munich
1989 hermann nitsch teaches a class of interdisciplinary art at the frankfurt academy of fine arts (städel-schule)
1990 first representation, 8. symphony, museum für angewandte kunst, vienna
1991 exhibition: calleria civica di arte contemporanea, trieste
1992 exhibition: pabellòn de las artes, sevilla
1993 exhibition: national gallery, prague
1994 exhibition: kunsthalle krems
1995 décor and attendance of the stage direction for the opera "hériodade" by jules massenet at the opera house, vienna
1996 performance of the 96th action, san martino, naples; 38th painting performance, schömerhaus, klosterneuburg exhibitions: museum moderner kunst stiftung wörlen, passau; palazzo delle esposizioni, rom and centre d´exposicions i documentació de l´art contemporani, palma de mallorca
1997 40th painting performance, museum of the 20th century, wien exhibition, kunsthallen göteborg
1998 „6-day-play“ from the 3rd to 9th of august in prinzendorf
1999 exhibition of relicts, relict installations and video documentation of the „100th action – 6-day-play“ at the museum moderner kunst, stiftung ludwig, palais liechtenstein, vienna and at the kiscelli museum, budapest
2000 video presentation of the extended version in several venues „6-day-play“ including los angeles, portikus, frankfurt and mönchengladbach and development of his concept of theatre and painting
2001 set- and costume-design for the opera „satyagraha“ by philip glass at the festspielhaus st. pölten; performance of the 107th action in prinzendorf
2002 performance of the 110th lehraktion (teaching action) whitechapel art gallery, london
2003 big retrospective at the essl museum, klosterneuburg performance of the 115th action essl museum, klosterneuburg
2004 performance of the 120th action: 2-day-play, prinzendorf;
2005 performance of the 122th action burgtheater, vienna; exhibitions: „the triumph of painting“, saatchi & saatchi, london; station museum of contemporary art, houston; award of the „grossen österreichischen staatspreis“
2006 exhibitions: white space gallery, bejing and at mike weiss gallery, nyc, big retrospective at martin-gropius bau, berlin;
2007 opening of the hermann nitsch museum in mistelbach, set- and costume-design for „szenen aus goethes faust“ by robert schumann at the opera house zurich
2008 opening of the museo archivio laboratorio per le arti contemporee hermann nitsch napoli by fondazione morra with an o. m. theater exhibition; exhibitions: 20th painting action in museum hermann nitsch mistelbach; consigment of the title of dr. h. c. from the university cluj, romania
2009 56th painting performance in hermann nitsch museum, mistelbach, künstlerhaus, wien, publication of the book "das sein", opening of the nitsch foundation, exhibitions: künstlerhaus, wien; kavernen, salzburg; de pont museum tilburg, holland, incubate festival in tilburg, holland, exhibition gam turin, exhibition dirimart istanbul; premiere of the "egyptian symphony", hermann nitsch museum mistelbach
2010 masterpieces from the duerckheim collection, hermann nitsch museum, mistelbach; "personal structures. time-space-existence", künstlerhaus bregenz; pentecost feast: 130th action, museum nitsch neaples; exhibition of drawings at the cabinet des dessins, musée d'art moderne, st. etienne; new museum installation, museum nitsch, naples; solo show, stella art foundation, moscow; conference, brixner symposium, brixen; smelling, nitsch foundation vienna; concert: nitsch quintett, musée d`art moderne, st. etienne
2011 group show, blood lines, mca denver; 60th painting action, mike weiss gallery, new york; obsession and intimacy: the body in contemporary austrian drawings - from alfred kubin to birgit jürgenssen, b&m theocharakis foundation for the fine arts and music, athens; 131th teaching action, leo könig inc., new york; group show, eroi, gam, turin; solo show, frühere werke aus der duerckheim collection, mzm, mistelbach; group show, personal structures, palazzo bembo, venedig; costumes and settings by hermann nitsch for saint francois d`assise by olivier messiaen, bayerische staatsoper münchen; solo show, hermann nitsch, leopold museum, vienna; organ concert, mozarteum, salzburg
2012 exhibitions: utopie gesamtkunstwerk im 21er haus, wien; levitikus, innsbruck/wien; kunstkulturkirche, frankfurt; thoman modern, innsbruck; 5 jahre hermann nitsch museum, mistelbach; explosion painting as action, moderna museet, stockholm; hermann nitsch personale im museum moderner kunst kärnten, klagenfurt; hermann nitsch: aus dem gesamtkunstwerk, galerie walker, schloss ebenau; in vivo hermann nitsch im centre pompidou, paris; galerie 422 margund lössl, gmunden; explosion painting as action; fondacio joan miro, barcelona; „a bigger splash: painting after performance art“, tate modern, london; performances: 135th action havanna, cuba; 64th painting performance at museo di arte moderna e contemporanea, mart rovereto; concerts: sinfonie for 100 pianists and 33 pianos and 1 synthesizer, tag der tausend finger / oö kulturquartier linz
2013 exhibitions: "sinne und sein - retrospektive", nitsch museum, mistelbach; "world metamorphosis", nitsch foundation, wien; "hermann nitsch", studio morra / alnitak art agency, art berlin contemporary; "performance photography - 1960 to 1979", nitsch foundation, vienna; group shows: "personal structures", palazzo bembo, venice; "la perversión de lo clásico: anarquía de los relatos", museo archeologico, cuba pavillon, 55th biennale venice; "flesh and blood", museum on the seam, jerusalem; "faces past and present", ernst museum, budapest; "seeing wagner", k.u.k. post- and telegraphenamt vienna; "ernesto balducci and the 'mass of the artists'", fondazione ernesto balducci, palazzo medici ricardi, florence; "duetto per napoli" (attersee e nitsch), castel dell'ovo, naples; performances: 138th action (3-day-play), centraltheater leipzig; 140th action (teaching action), abc berlin; 66th painting action, istanbul contemporary; 141st action (teaching action), nitsch foundation vienna; lectures: universität leipzig, museum der bildenden künste leipzig; aec linz; concerts: streichquintett "1938", nitsch foundation, vienna; "leipzig symphony" centraltheater, leipzig; "composition for organ", jesuitenkirche, vienna; duetto per napoli (attersee/nitsch), teatrino di corte, naples;
2014 exhibitions: "aktionsmalerei", dirimart, istanbul; "new york 2011", nitsch foundation, vienna; "arena - opere dell'opera", nitsch museum, mistelbach; "malaktionismus", museo nitsch, napoli; "das orgien mysterien theater", danubiana meulensteen art museum, bratislava; "carne e luce", fondazione ducci, rom; "hermann nitsch", culture industries association, hong kong; "maculations", nitsch foundation, vienna; group shows: "made in austria", sammlung essl, klosterneuburg; "im dialog - wiener aktionismus", mdm, salzburg; biennale di disegno, rimini; performances: 142nd action, feast of pentecost, prinzendorf castle; 77. painting performance, galerie thoman, wien; lectures: summit "senses and being", nitsch museum, mistelbach; aec, linz; concerts: “selten gehörten musik”, theater casino zug and musikakademie basel.
2015 exhibitions: "existenzfest. hermann nitsch und das theater", theatermuseum wien; "12 works on paper", galerie thoman, innsbruck; group shows: "sleepless", 21er haus - museum for contemporary art, vienna; "vienna for art's sake", winterpalais, vienna; "my body is the event", mumok, vienna; actions: scheduled "inauguration's action" theatermuseum vienna; lectures: animal ethic - in dialogue, vetart-kunstforum/nitsch museum, mistelbach; location: nitsch museum mistelbach concerts: "sinfónia für mexico city", ex teresa arte actual, mexico;
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works by hermann nitsch are among others in the following museums and collections: moma, new york; guggenheim collection, new york; metropolitan museum, new york; museum university of yale; walker art center, mineapolis; busch-reisinger museum harvard university, cambridge; saint louis art museum, st. louis, missouri; hudson valley center for contemporary art, peekskill, new york; tang, saratoga springs, new york; station museum of contemporary art houston, texas; gallery of ontario, toronto; tate gallery, london; musée centre georges pompidou, paris; stedelijk van abbe museum, eindhoven; stedelijk museum, amsterdam; castello di rivoli, rivoli; gam, turin; museo capodimonte, neapel; museo nitsch, neapel; galleria d´arte moderna, bologna; mart, rovereto; mar - museo d’arte della città di ravenna; kunstsammlung nordrhein-westfalen, düsseldorf; museum ludwig, köln; nationalgalerie berlin; lenbachhaus, münchen; staatsgemäldesammlung münchen; museum brandhorst, münchen; graphische sammlung, münchen; staatsgalerie stuttgart; kunsthalle hamburg; museum neue galerie, saarbrücken; schloss moorsbroich, leverkusen; gfzk, leipzig, kunstmuseum bern; kunstmuseum winterthur; mumok, wien; albertina, wien; österreichische galerie belvedere, wien; leopold museum, wien; lentos, linz; rupertinum, salzburg; ferdinandeum, innsbruck; sammlung essl, klosterneuburg; nitsch museum, mistelbach
 
exhibition, performances, concerts and lectures in bregenz, graz, innsbruck, krems/stein, st. pölten, klagenfurt, linz, salzburg; augsburg, berlin, bonn, bremen, darmstadt, dresden, düsseldorf, frankfurt, hamburg, hannover, hildesheim, kassel, köln, krefeld, leipzig, lübeck, mainz, mönchengladbach, münchen, passau, regensburg, rosenheim, speyer, stuttgart, tübingen, wiesbaden; basel, bern, winterthur, zürich; vaduz; bergamo, bologna, florenz, genua, mailand, meran, modena, napoli, padua, palermo, ravenna, rom, sorrent, lecce, trient, turin, verona; london, glasgow; paris, marseille, lyon, oiron, rouen/caen; ljubljana, piran; prag; bratislava; budapest; istanbul; tel aviv; torun, krakau; luxemburg; gent, brüssel; madrid, sevilla, valencia, palma de mallorca; lissabon; amsterdam, arnheim, eindhoven, den haag, tillburg; st. jost breda; kopenhagen; göteborg, stockholm; los angeles, new york, binghampton, cincinatti, chicago, el paso, ridgefield, taos; rio de janeiro; vancouver, toronto, halifax; sydney, melbourne; seoul; peking, shanghai; tokio