The first Actionism museum opens in Vienna

The Museum of Viennese Actionism (WAM) opened its doors on Friday March 15, in the heart of Vienna. It brings together the largest collection in the world dedicated to this radical movement of the 1960s, which is characterized by extreme artistic performances, in a form of reaction to post-war Austrian society. The museum celebrates its four main exponents Günter Brus (1938-2024), Otto Muehl (1925-2013), Hermann Nitsch (1938-2022) and Rudolf Schwarzkogler (1940-1969), focusing on their artistic production from 1957 to 1973.

The creation of the museum is the initiative of a group of private collectors – led by gallery owner Philipp Konzett – who acquired the Friedrichshof collection in 2022 and thus hold one of the largest collections of works of Viennese actionism . They then undertake to transfer the entirety of it to a museum, with the aim of making the movement accessible to the public in all its complexity. “We hope to ensure that Viennese Actionism – or the artistic quality of Viennese Actionism – reaches a wide audience” explains Julia Moebus-Puck, director of WAM, while emphasizing the importance of “show the enormous explosive force that Viennese actionism had and still has in the history of art and in social policy”.

Located in a former gallery in the historic center of Vienna, the museum has 900 m² of exhibition space. Its collection includes around 17,000 works, which mainly come from the Friedrichshof collection but also from other donations. It mainly includes photographs and films of performances, but also paintings, sketches, collages, screen prints and posters. If the museum is mainly interested in the four main protagonists of the movement, it also exhibits the first works of Adolf Frohner (1934-2007) and Alfons Shilling (1934-2013), whose artistic production encouraged its emergence . Many archival documents are also collected and can be used for research purposes.

The inaugural exhibition “What is Viennese Actionism?” » (March 15 – January 31, 2025) offers a first overview of the importance of the movement on a socio-political and cultural level. Organized by curator Eva Badura-Triska, the exhibition aims to highlight the diversity and complexity of the radical performances of the actionists, who considered the human body and its psyche without taboo, not hesitating to use blood, urine and excrement to challenge the limits of traditional painting.

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