Since the beginning of her career in Belgrade during the early 1970s, Marina Abramović has pioneered performance as a visual art form. She created some of the most important early works in this practice, including Rhythm 0 (1974), in which she offered herself as an object of experimentation for the audience, as well as Rhythm 5 (1974), where she lay in the centre of a burning five-point star to the point of losing consciousness. These performances married concept with physicality, endurance with empathy, complicity with loss of control, passivity with danger. They pushed the boundaries of self-discovery, both of herself and her audience. They also marked her first engagements with time, stillness, energy, pain, and the resulting heightened consciousness generated by long durational performance.
The body has always been both her subject and medium. Exploring her physical and mental limits in works that ritualise the simple actions of everyday life, she has withstood pain, exhaustion and danger in her quest for emotional and spiritual transformation. From 1975-88, Abramović and the German artist Ulay performed together, dealing with relations of duality. She returned to solo performances in 1989 and for The Artist Is Present (2010) she sat motionless for at least eight hours per day over three months, engaged in silent eye-contact with hundreds of strangers one by one.
Abramović was one of the first performance artists to become formally accepted by the institutional museum world with major solo shows taking place throughout Europe and the US over a period of more than 25 years. Her first European retrospective ‘The Cleaner’ was presented at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden in 2017, followed by presentations at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, Denmark, Henie Onstad, Sanvika, Norway (2017), Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Germany (2018), Centre of Contemporary Art, Torun (2019), and Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Serbia (2019). The artist’s operatic project ‘7 Deaths of Maria Callas’ debuted at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, Germany in 2020, and toured to Palais Garnier, Paris, France and the Greek National Opera, Athens, Greece in 2021. Further performances are scheduled for spring 2022 at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Germany (8-10 April) and Teatro di San Carlo, Naples, Italy (13-15 May). In 2023, Abramović will be the first female artist to host a major solo exhibition in the Main Galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Abramović has participated in many large-scale international exhibitions including the Venice Biennale (1976, 1997) and Documenta VI, VII and IX, Kassel, Germany (1977, 1982 and 1992). She has also established the MAI (Marina Abramović Institute) to support the future exploration and promotion of performance art.
Born: 1946 in Belgrade
Elected Hon RA: 27 September 2011
Preferred media: Performance
Our major exhibition presents key moments from Abramović’s career through sculpture, video, installation and performance.
Works such as The Artist is Present will be strikingly re-staged through archive footage while others will be reperformed by the next generation of performance artists, trained in the Marina Abramović method.