Hermann Nitsch

20th painting action

The Helmut Essl’s private collection presents Hermann Nitsch’s 20th painting action from 1987 during the 59th Venice Biennale.

This painting action takes on a special role in Nitsch’s oeuvre, as it was performed and exhibited at the Vienna Secession. We are very pleased that these works remain in one hand – the Helmut Essl’s private collection.

The works of the 20th painting action in the Wiener Secession reveal impressively their genesis that took place between ‘unleashed outbreaks of fury and delicate gestures’. We are immersed in a pictorial, actionist environment in which the basic constants of his work spread out visually, located between the momentary and the eternal, the dynamically moving and the contemplatively calm, the real and the symbolic, between purity and defilement, excessive demands and reflection.

With the large-format poured painting (5×20 m) on the front wall, and numerous smaller splatter and poured paintings flanking it, a space-filling panorama is created, illustrating like no other in condensed form the essence of Nitsch’s painting as an integral component of his ‘Orgies Mysteries Theater’ conceived in a synaesthetic manner.

Nitsch declared: “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.” As part of his comprehensively conceived ‘Orgies Mysteries Theater’, the painting action is intended to trigger in the public a heightened experience of sensory reality, ideally leading to reflection on one’s own existence.

The renewed integration of the works from the 20th painting action in the historical space of the Oficine 800 on the island of Giudecca not only enables a recapitulation of his most important works; it also allows Nitsch’s artistic ideas located between the ecstatic and the contemplative to be re-traced and re-experienced.


Hermann Nitsch, 20th painting action
Vienna 1987 – Venice 2022
Oficine 800, Fondamenta S. Biagio, Venice

Opening reception: April 21, 2022, from 4 pm to 8 pm
On View: April 19 – July 20, 2022
Wednesday to Monday, 10 am – 6 pm
Closed Tuesdays. Entrance free of charge
Accessible By: Vaporetto stop “Palanca”, lines 4.1/4.2 or 2

Organized by Zuecca Projects and Galerie Kandlhofer in collaboration of PACE Gallery
and supported by the Nitsch Foundation.

With special thanks to Helmut Essl.

April 19 — July 20, 2022

Oficine 800
Fondamenta S. Biagio, 800
30133 Venice

Wednesday to Monday 10am — 6pm