NEW YORK, NY.- MARC STRAUS
, my gallery, just announced that we represent Hermann Nitsch shortly before we learned that Museo Jumex in Mexico City made the decision to cancel Nitschs February exhibition under pressure from an on-line anti-Nitsch petition. The timing is exquisite.
I have been collecting art seriously since beginning medical school and many of our purchases along the years were severely criticized by individuals who had very narrow views of what art is or should be; works by Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Jeff Koons, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano. The cancelation of Mapplethorpe and Serrano shows under similar public pressure proved to be shameful acts by those institutions and directors who capitulated to such outside forces.
Hermann eloquently responded for himself and it has been almost twenty years since his performance included such a ritual. But no matter what care he took with the animals, the art itself would inevitably result in such antipathy. Not just because blood is used but because the action itself deals with core religious rituals.
Hermann is not antireligious. The Church is a part of his life. Yet can there be any greater evidence than recently that wonton slaughter occurs using religious rationale: brutality of Isis in the name of Islam and sordid periods in the history of Christianity as the Inquisition. Surely the reenactment of the Passion Play has instigated religious slaughter of others. And to bring such concerns to the moment is not the strapping of bombs around ones chest a form of ritual suicide and killing in the name of religion? Even so Nitschs work is less about such commentary than about ritual in religion.
For centuries The Catholic Church did not permit nudity in art except for the many examples depicting crucifixion, martyrology, or with exemptions for the statue of David, etc. People have too often denigrated art works because of their lack of understanding and prejudices as was the case of Mayor Giuliani and the Brooklyn Museum show. When certain groups with deep seeded prejudices assume power they burn books and art; the Nazis and now fanatical elements of Islam. They kill the publishers of Charlie Hebo. Could Nitsch be more timely?
Those signing a petition against a show by Hermann Ntisch would not be able to look objectively at the doctrinal art in museums in Mexico. They react to something that seems abhorrent that they dont understand. That is sad but the real blame must be on Jumex. It is an art institution with a highly regarded contemporary collection. Look carefully at their inventory: look at art that slices lambs then puts in vitrines for ritual viewing.
Hermann Nitsch makes art from the heart, art that conflates beauty with ritual. At the end there are paintings, some of the most powerful abstract works in the past sixty years. His is an authentic and brave voice. His performances of old are neither crass nor anti-religious. It is commentary. It is about mans need for ritual and how such rituals are replete with beautiful symbols.
I am so proud to represent his work.
-Marc J. Straus