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620 Columbia Street in Hudson, New York, the future location of Marina Abramovic’s Center for the Preservation of Performance Art (Photo:OMA)

Marina Abramovic, the reigning champion of high-endurance performance art, announced last week that she would be gutting a former cinema-turned-tennis club in Hudson, New York, and converting it into her very own performance palace. With the help of Rem Koolhaas’s Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Abramovic’s planned Center for the Preservation of Performance Art could well act as that catalyst that truly transforms the upstate New York town into a first-rank art destination.


Janelle Zara
Blouin ArtInfo

The opening scene from “The Biography Remix”, 2004, directed by Michael Laub

In her 40 years as a performance artist, Marina Abramovic has been no stranger to drama. Yet she has said that she isn’t interested in theatre, because it is too fake. The hardships she creates for herself—cutting a five-pointed star into her abdomen, scrubbing bloody cow bones for hours, fasting for weeks, or sitting in a public arena without moving or speaking for 60 days straight—may not be scripted and rehearsed, but their completion can be as cathartic as Greek tragedy. What’s more, she performs these tasks before audiences who want to be entertained.

On 9 July, when The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic premieres at the 2011 Manchester International Festival, they are likely to get a blockbuster. Always in full control of each moment in her own performances, this time the Serbian-born artist will perform a theatre work created—at her request—by someone else.


Linda Yablonsky
The Art Newspaper

(Photographs by Marco Anelli)

Performance art, as currently practiced, emerged as an avant garde movement in the 1960s and ’70s, and some of its features made it difficult to visualize how it might make the transition from galleries and public spaces to the more institutional environment of the museum.

For one thing, the medium of the artist is his or her own body, sometimes nude or engaged in highly dangerous circumstances. Pictures of nude bodies doing dangerous things raise no such obstacles in a museum space, but performance art itself is real in all dimensions. Before it can be translated and presented in a museum, a number of problems, both practical and philosophical, must be worked out.


Arthur C. Danto
New York Times

Marina Abramovic and Ulay, “Relation in Time,” 1977. Still from 16mm film transferred to video. (Photo: Marina Abramovic, Sean Kelly Gallery/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Caught in the ambient glow of overhead light fixtures, two figures sit staring at each other across a table. One of the figures is dressed in a long, flowing red gown reminiscent of clerical wear. The other is weeping inconsolably. For a moment, the world is theatrically halted, slowed to the pulse of dual heartbeats. Looking away quickly from the reverie on display, one acknowledges the frame: the cameras and the awaiting queue to the shrine in the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium, where Marina Abramovic is sitting for 716 hours and 30 minutes for her new durational work, The Artist is Present, as members of the public take turns courting her — and challenging her — with their gaze.

The already notorious performance is part of the first full-scale retrospective of a performance artist ever organized at MoMA, spanning four decades of Abramovic’s prolific and demanding practice, from her early ‘70s conceptual and sometimes death-defying “Rhythm” works through her collaborations with former partner and lover Ulay to Seven Easy Pieces, her 2005 Guggenheim restaging of seminal performance works by Joseph Beuys, Vito Acconci, and herself. Interspersed throughout the exhibit are reproduced versions of Abramovic’s key works, presented by a host of often naked people she has trained to perform her work.


Mark Beasley

For her first major museum retrospective, veteran performance artist Marina Abramovic will spend more than three months in the Museum of Modern Art’s large second floor atrium sitting at a small table.

For hours a day she will sit in silence, while visitors can take an empty chair across the table from her and become part of the performance. “The title of the exhibition is ‘The Artist is Present’. I wanted to take this literally and make my presence visible during the entire presentation,” Abramovic told The Art Newspaper a month before the show’s opening.

Abramovic is known for her physically and mentally demanding work, such as when she spent 12 days living on public display in Sean Kelly Gallery for The House with the Ocean View, 2002, and this performance is no different.


Art Newspaper