Otto Muehl - vendere e comprare opere

Otto Muehl (1925 Grodnau, Austria – Faro, Portugal, 2013)


The level of controversy surrounding Otto Muehl is only matched by his status in art history as an essential protagonist of Viennese Actionism. Alongside artists such as Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Hermann Nitsch, Günther Brus, Adolf Frohner and others, the former Wehrmacht soldier, German studies graduate and historian radically pushed the boundaries of painting and traditional art in post-war conservative Austria, breaking taboos and generating shock. Muehl’s expansion of panel painting consisted of overcoming and destroying it. He also worked obsessively with the (female) body as material. In 1962 the multi-day action and manifesto "Die Blutorgel" (The Blood Organ), saw Muehl brick himself up in his basement studio with the artists Hermann Nitsch and Adolf Frohner. Extreme body art actions followed. In 1968, alongside Günter Brus, Oswald Wiener and Peter Weibel, Muehl participated in what was probably the most famous performance of Austrian post-war art, the infamous action "Art and Revolution" in a lecture hall of the University of Vienna, in front of an audience of around 300.


In order to distinguish himself from Happenings, Muehl founded the commune "Aktion analytische Organisation (AAO)" in Vienna in 1970, inspired by Wilhelm Reich, and thereafter the commune Friedrichshof in Burgenland in 1974, which lasted until 1988.  Although originally conceived as a radical answer to the "gnome state" and the "gnome order" through free sexuality, communal property, and dissolving the traditional family unit, Muehl developed authoritarian structures with dictatorial tendencies. Following allegations by former communards, in 1991 Muehl was sentenced to seven years in prison for drug-related offences and child abuse. In 2010, he apologised to his victims for the first time in an open letter as part of an exhibition at the Leopold Museum: "I wanted to liberate them and instead I overpowered and harmed them through sexual transgression". For this reason, Dorotheum does not auction nudes by Otto Muehl from his commune period without clarifying the context of their creation, nor does it auction ash pictures created from the ashes of diaries that Muehl had burned without their authors’ consent.


Muehl's dense pictorial oeuvre from the mid-1970s onwards must be seen in the context of the commune ideas; it encompasses the most diverse styles such as Pop Art, the Egyptian style, works inspired by Picasso, representationalism as well as abstraction. Otto Muehl, who was artistically active up until the end of his life and whose works are exhibited in many major museums and collections, died in Portugal in 2013.