Krakow, 9 November 2011 Press release

The Essl Collection presents the artists of Viennese Actionism

First comprehensive retrospective of Viennese Actionism in Poland

Krakow, 9 November 2011 – The first comprehensive presentation of Viennese Actionism is currently on show in a presentation of the Essl Collection at the new Museum of Contemporary Art of the city of Krakow. This is the first time the important Austrian art form, which was seen as a provocation by many in the 1960s, has been exhibited at such a comprehensive level in Poland. Hermann Nitsch, one of the co-founders of Viennese Actionism and one of the most important contemporary artists, attended the opening of the exhibition on 8 November in Krakow.

According to modern art research, it was the aim of the protagonists of this movement to use their mode of expression as representatives of the post-war generation to protest against the ossification of Austrian society and the prevailing understanding of art at that time. Since then, this dynamic departure from traditionalism has led to a widening of the understanding of art. Aesthetics of the raw material and the body became a form of art of political significance – reflecting what the actionists had in mind when they developed their “direct art”. Viennese Actionism is one of the most important contributions of Austrian art to the international neo-avant-garde of the 1960s that expanded the concept of art with multi-media, process-oriented and performative means of expression.

The focus of the exhibition is on photographic documents of actionist performances of Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Otto Muehl as well as on the most important action photos of Rudolf Schwarzkogler. The exhibition also includes exemplary paintings and splatter paintings of Hermann Nitsch as well as Günter Brus’ “Bilddichtungen”, a synthesis between poetry and painting. Several video works make Actionism tangible, material and palpable: Two performances of Hermann Nitsch’s Orgiastic Mystery Theatre commissioned by the Essl Museum and a video compendium compiled and created by Günter Brus showing his most important actionist performances.

The all-embracing exhibition with over 400 photos, a dozen paintings and three videos is currently shown in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, considered to be the most interesting museum for contemporary art in Poland at the present time. The museum is located in the former enamelware factory in Krakow where Oskar Schindler saved over a thousand Jewish forced labourers during World War II from their certain death in the National Socialist extermination camps.


the Austrian General Consulate Krakow
Phone: +48/12 424 99 30
Fax: +48/12 421 67 64

Österreichisches Kulturforum Krakau
Phone: +48/12 424 99 30
Fax: +48/12 421 67 37