Pace Gallery now represents Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch, who often incorporates carcasses and gore in performances that have spurred controversy. Pace, which has permanent spaces in New York, London, Hong Kong, Seoul, Geneva, and Palo Alto., will represent him alongside the Nitsch Foundation and Galerie Kandlhofer in Vienna.
The gallery will present its first solo presentation of Nitsch’s work in New York in 2023. Nitsch will also present his 20th painting action, originally staged in Vienna in 1987, on the island of Giudecca, during the run of this year’s Venice Biennale. That exhibition will be the first time the works have been shown since their creation, courtesy of collector Helmut Essl, who owns them all.
“Hermann Nitsch has made hugely important contributions to the history of performance through his audacious, multifaceted, and transportive productions,” Pace president and CEO Marc Glimcher said in a statement. “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.”
Over six decades, the Viennese Actionist has made use of shock tactics in an attempt overwhelm his viewers’ senses. In 2017, he staged 150. Action, a three-hour performance held at the Dark Mofo festival in which a freshly slaughtered bull carcass was pulled apart as 500 liters of blood was flung about the stage. Afterward, the bull was removed from its wooden stand placed on the ground. His performers then dived into the gore in a frenzy, filling it with fruits, vegetables, and other animal remains.
In the days leading up to the performance, over 2,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be canceled. Animal rights activists in Tasmania said they did not oppose the slaughter of the bull, which was done humanely, but criticized the abuse of its carcass.
The work belongs to his “Orgien Mysterien Theater” series begun in the 1960s. In its various iterations, performers dressed in white have engaged bodily with entrails and animal remains as part of a ritual to acknowledge the inevitability of death.
This summer, 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.
Nitsch’s work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Tate in London, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, among other institutions.
Clarification, February 11, 2022: This article has been update to clarify the specifics of Nitsch’s exhibition that will take place during the 2022 Venice Biennale.