Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch
The latest exhibition by controversial Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch, the Orgies Mysteries Theatre (Das Orgien Mysterien Theater), opened at Zisa Zona Arti Contemporanee Art (ZAC) in Palermo. Several people outside the exhibition protested against the graphic nature of Nitsch's artwork. Getty Images

An Austrian artist is facing a backlash by animal rights activists over his dead animals exhibition in Sicily.

Hermann Nitsch, 76, has featured several dead animals on crucifixes in Palermo, Sicily.

Nitsch is reportedly famous for his Orgies Mysteries Theatre, where religious sacrifices and slaughters are performed.

Reacting to the public criticism, his wife, Rita Nitsch, spoke in his defence.

"I have been married to my husband for 30 years now and I can tell you that this kind of small ruckus is always part of (his work)," said Rita, reported France24 News.

"But quality has triumphed over the polemic. The show is a huge success and it annoys me when the media pick up this sort of thing instead of focusing on all the positive reviews we have received."

Animal rights activists are calling for the exhibition, that is due to run until 20 July, to be closed for inciting violence.

Meanwhile, Italian activist Antonio Leto has filed a complaint and said the exhibition is a "shame" for the city of Palermo.

Leto condemned the exhibition saying it violates the 1978 UN Declaration of Animal Rights.

Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando was amongst those who attended the opening of the exhibition.

Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch
Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch's latest exhibition. Getty Images
Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch
A protest against the graphic nature of Nitsch's artwork. Getty Images