(Grodnau/Burgenland 1925 – Olhao/Portugal 2013)
Otto Mühl, the painter and controversial community founder, was born in Burgenland in 1925. In 1953 he began studying art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In addition to his studies, he worked as a drawing teacher and painting therapist in a therapy home for children.
In 1960 Mühl had his first solo exhibition and only one year later he turned away from painting in order to devote himself to working on sculptures made of scrap and slashed canvases into which he built objects. In doing so, he followed the trend towards the “destruction of the panel painting”. These material actions were followed by actions with Hermann Nitsch and Adolf Frohner, which also resulted in a joint manifesto that marked the beginning of Viennese actionism. Mühl took part in many art campaigns, but subsequently also attached importance to differentiating his art from “happening art”.
This is how the notorious Friedrichshof commune was founded in 1974. In 1983 the commune had reached its maximum number of members, 600. The commune followed the utopian ideals that are common for such projects: community ownership, abolition of the nuclear family and free sexuality, but failed due to authoritarian leadership. During this time in Friedrichshof, Otto Mühl created countless paintings and drawings, but these were not exhibited outside the municipality.
In 1991 Mühl was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for various moral offenses, in which he created around 300 pictures. After his release, Otto Mühl moved to Portugal, where he lived in an “Art & Life Family” commune. Mühl died there in 2013.