MEXICO CITY — On the eve of this city’s biggest art fair, Zona MACO, the Museo Jumex quietly decided to cancel its upcoming Hermann Nitsch exhibition. The show of work by the controversial Viennese Actionist was set to open on February 27 and would have been his first exhibition ever in Mexico.
Although no official explanation was given, widespread speculation links it to an online petition calling for the exhibition’s cancellation over what it refers to as “the mutilation, beheading, murder and display of the bodies of sentient animals” in Nitsch’s work. The artist’s theatrical “Aktions” have often involved animal carcasses and blood, as well as ritualistic crucifixions. The petition has so far gathered over 5,000 signatures, with anti-Nitsch sentiment also being expressed on twitter with the hashtag #PintaConTuPropiaSangre (paint with your own blood). A counter petition has gathered over 1,500 signatures. According to Animal Politico, Jumex staff has denied that the petition was responsible for the cancellation. Museo Jumex cited only an “administrative situation” in response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
In a statement given to Artnet News, Nitsch expressed his sadness over the cancellation, saying he was “deeply hurt.” Calling himself an “animal protector” Nitsch states: “I am a dramatist and a dramatist has to work with the tragic, with death. I try to show the death of animals, the slaughtering of animals. Normally I used carcasses from the butcher for my performances. These animals were slaughtered for food supply for our society. The last slaughtering within my theater happened in 1998, it was performed by a professional butcher under surveillance of a veterinarian with the authorization of the government.”
Many in the Mexican art world have criticized the move by the private museum. Curator and critic Cuauhtémoc Medina expressed his disappointment on twitter calling it “a very sad day for art in Mexico.”
— Cuauhtémoc Medina (@cuauhmedina) January 31, 2015
On Friday the Austrian Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Eva Hager, released a statement offering support for the artist. In contrast to those who accuse him of animal cruelty, Hager contends that Nitsch’s work reflects a time when the lives of animals were more respected. “Nitsch’s oeuvre critiques precisely the industrial use of animals for public consumption, as well as the attitude of a society that considers animal products as disposable,” she argues.
“It’s very strange, I’m very disappointed, I was really looking forward to it,” said an arts professional in Mexico City, who wished to remain anonymous. “No one understands it, it’s a very Mexican thing,” they said, alluding to the lack of transparency behind the decision.
In place of the Nitsch exhibition, Jumex has announced a group exhibition of works from the collection that will include Wilfredo Prieto, Dieter Roth, Hans-Peter Feldmann Andreas Slominski.
For those wishing to vent their outrage on the dancefloor, an anonymous artist calling himself DJ Hermann Nitsch will be hosting a party at the Secret Disco Bar in Mexico City on Friday, February 13. “The Nitsch expo could have offered an opportunity for confrontation of and reflection on the cruel political violence in Mexico,” they told Hyperallergic, going on to attack the way animals are processed in the country. “Those armchair hypocrites should throw a change.org petition at every mercado in Mexico while they’re at it.”