Johann Korec Austrian, 1937-2008


Johann Korec grew up in orphanages in Vienna and from age thirteen worked as a farm laborer and shepherd. His dream was to care for animals in a circus, but manic depression and hypomania led to his commitment to the Maria Gugging Psychiatric Clinic just north of Vienna in 1958. Only four years earlier, psychiatrist Leo Navratil had administered diagnostic drawing tests to his patients at the clinic, discovering that several of them had artistic talent. Navratil’s first book, Schizophrenie und Kunst (Schizophrenia and Art), was published in 1965. In 1970 the Gugging artists had their first exhibition in the Viennese Galerie nächst St. Stephan. By 1981 all artistically talented patients at Gugging (including Korec) were housed under one roof—the Center for Art-Psychotherapy—and exhibitions featuring their work began to appear throughout Europe. Eventually, the center’s name was changed to House of Artists and psychological analysis of the residents’ art was no longer the focus, as care shifted to providing a protected community to pursue their individual talents and develop skills despite mental illness. Navratil’s successor, Johann Feilacher, has sought to promote the artists’ work widely in the international art market and, to this day, the Gugging artists have been part of more than 250 exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide.

Johann Korec’s interest in art emerged in the 1960s, when he started collecting images from print media and tracing the figures that appealed to him. At one point, he began to combine the tracings with his own compositions—retracing all contours with India ink and filling them with watercolors. A favorite motif soon developed: lovers locked in intimacy, which he depicts in multiple variations and describes within his pictures with a large text section that identifies each figure, the male invariably being himself and the various women his real or fictional girlfriends. The narrative is an essential graphic component of each work, a pictorial diary documenting an erotic story unfolding in Korec’s mind. Korec’s work is in the abcd Collection (Paris), the Arnulf Rainer Collection (Vienna), the Charlotte Zander Museum (Bönnigheim, Germany), the Collection de l’Art Brut (Lausanne, Switzerland), the Stads-hof Collection (Netherlands), the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art (Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France), the Musée de la Creation Franche (Bègles, France), the Setagaya Museum (Tokyo), and the Museum of Outsider Art (-Moscow). Korec’s work was included in the exhibition Known/Unknown: Private Obsession and Hidden Desire in Outsider Art in 2017 at the Museum of Sex (New York).