Otto muehl


1925 - 1960

Otto Muehl at Perinetkeller ca. 1962, Estate Otto Muehl
Otto Muehl at Perinetkeller ca. 1962, Archive Sammlung Friedrichshof

1925 born on the 16th June in Grodnau/ Burgenland.


In 1943 Muehl is drafted into the German Armed Forces and participates in the Battle of the Bulge during the second World War.


During 1952 he completes his studies and teacher training in German philology and history at the University of Vienna and begins studying art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.


In 1958 Muehl works as a drawing therapist in a home for developmentally disabled children, under the direction of Eva Rosenfeld (1892-1977), a former pupil of Sigmund Freud. Together with Anna Freud, they founded the Hietzinger School, furnished by Adolf Loos.


1960 sees Otto Muehl´s first solo exhibition, he meets Günter Brus and Alfons Schilling.

VienNA Actionism

1960 - 1972

Wehrertüchtigung (Military Training), 1967, Photo: Ludwig Hoffenreich, Estate Otto Muehl
Wehrertüchtigung (Military Training), 1967, Photo: Ludwig Hoffenreich, Archive Sammlung Friedrichshof

In 1961 the manifesto »Destruction of the panel painting«. Muehl starts slashing canvases as well as incorporating objects, creation of three-dimensional works / junk sculptures.


1962 rents the Perinetkeller. In the wake of a protest-event against the Wiener Festwochen that Muehl organised with his friends Hermann Nitsch and Adolf Frohner, the jointly written manifesto »Die Blutorgel« (The Blood Organ) arises as the first manifesto of Vienna Actionism.


In 1963, together with Hermann Nitsch, Muehl performs the first public event of Vienna Actionism with the »Fest des psychophysischen Naturalismus« (Festival of Psycho-Physical Naturalism). Additionally, he gives a private show of his first action, titled »Versumpfung einer Venus« (Enmiring of a Venus). Many of his subsequent, roughly 100 actions were documented by the press photographer, Ludwig Hoffenreich, and are the basis for Muehl´s friend, Kurt Kren´s experimental films.


In 1966 together with Günter Brus, the founding of the »Institut für direkte Kunst« (Vienna Institute for Direct Art). Participation in »Destruction in Art Symposium DIAS« in London with Nitsch, Kren, Brus and Weibel.


In 1967, together with Oswald Wiener, he initiates a platform for public action with the term »ZOCK«. In this context, the silk screen printing series »Persönlichkeiten« (Personalities) is created.


In 1968 the action »Kunst und Revolution« (Art and Revolution) takes place in Lecture Hall 1 of the New Institute Building of the University of Vienna. Muehl is put in custody for two months.


In 1970 the foundation of the Praterstraße Commune, later the »Aktions-Analytische-Organisation (AAO)« is founded. Participation in the exhibition »Happening & Fluxus« at the Kölnischer Kunstverein.


1972 - 1990

In 1972 purchase of the Friedrichshof in the Burgenland town of Zurndorf. Development of the project »Friedrichshof Commune«. Free sexuality, common property, communal raising of children and the further development of the artistic action for action analysis and subsequently, analytical self-expression are basic structures of the commune. Participation in the »Documenta 5«


Between 1975 – 1991 Muehl´s paintings and drawings are in close correlation with the film projects realized in the commune, such as: »Vincent«, »Hitler«, »Picasso«, »Back to Fucking Cambridge«. Among other things, he works on the series »Vincent – an Artist´s Life«. In 1989, a series of colored silk screen prints titled »Politiker« (Politicians) are created in connection with the film »Andy’s Cake«.


Between 1985 – 1987 Muehl starts on a group of works that stylistically segue between American pop and European agitprop aesthetics. Among other things, the series »Unfälle im Haushalt« (Accidents in the Home) is created. In the second half of the 1980s, Muehl once again increasingly devotes himself to abstract gestural painting, as well as material and structural studies, which were already essential themes of his art, back in the early 1960s.

Commune Friedrichshof, 1980ies, Commune Archive Friedrichshof Estate Otto Muehl
Commune Friedrichshof, 1980ies, Commune Archive Friedrichshof


1991 - 2013


In 1991 the commune in which up to 300 members now live, is dissolved after about 20 years. The Eisenstadt regional court sentences Otto Muehl to seven years in prison for punishable offences against morality and violation of the Narcotic Drugs Act. Also during this time, numerous works are produced, drawing on his personal situation and the atmosphere in prison.


In 1998 Muehl settles with a smaller group of communards in the Portuguese Algarve. Despite progressive Parkinson´s disease, Muehl continues to be artistically active up until his death in 2013, and his works include the series »Sharks« and »Electric Paintings«, a fascinating and radical late work.


In 2013 Muehl dies on May 26th in Moncarapacho, Olhão, Portugal.


Since 1966, his works have been shown worldwide in numerous solo and group exhibitions, also including the 1972 Harald Szeemann curated »Documenta 5«. Works can be found in many prominent museums, such as the MUMOK Vienna, the Leopold Collection, Vienna, the Essl Collection, Klosterneuburg/ Vienna, the Falckenberg Collection in Hamburg, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the MOMA in New York, the Walter Art Center, Minneapolis, the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin, the Getty Research Center in Los Angeles, the Glenstone Collection in Washington DC and many more.

Otto Muehl at Friedrichshof in the 1980s, Photo: Philippe Dutartre, Archives Otto Muehl Estate Otto Muehl
Otto Muehl at Friedrichshof in the 1980s, Photo: Philippe Dutartre, Archives Otto Muehl