Culture

Visitors invited to squeeze through naked models in Marina Abramović’s new retrospective

Visitors invited to squeeze through naked models in Marina Abramović's new retrospective

Marina Abramović, the renowned Serbian performance artist, is being honoured with a prestigious retrospective exhibition at the renowned Royal Academy of Arts in London.

With a reputation for relentlessly pushing the boundaries of physical and mental endurance in the name of art, Abramović’s unique and provocative body of work has been assembled for an incredible showcase.

Notably, the retrospective marks the Royal Academy of Arts’ first dedicated exhibition to a female artist and the institution’s inaugural foray into the realm of performance art. 

Visitors are also encouraged to actively engage with the world of performance art.

One of the exhibition’s entrances is guarded over by two naked models, inviting visitors to squeeze through the narrow passage between them in a piece titled Imponderabilia, originally performed by Abramović and Ulay in 1977.

Who is Marina Abramović?

Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic poses standing on one of her artworks during a photocall at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London.Credit: AFP

Over a five-decade-long career, Marina Abramović has earned acclaim across the globe as a leading pioneer of performance art. 

She’s famous for consistently testing the limits of her own mental and physical endurance throughout her work – and inviting audiences to follow her on the process.

The Serbian artist has made a huge impact on the art world with spectacular works, including 1974’s Rhythm 0, when Abramović invited audiences to interact with her using one of 72 objects on a table in front of her at a Naples event space. 

While people started tamely — offering her a rose or a kiss — the six hour performance ended with a loaded gun held to her head.

Abramovic, right, and a visitor to the Museum of Modern art perform «The Artist is Present» on 15 March 2010 in New York.Credit: AP Photo

Later works including 2010’s The Artist Is Present, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, encouraged spectators to question their own emotions while they sat in silence opposite Abramović, for more than 700 hours. 

The response was staggering, as more than 1,500 individuals from all walks of life participated in this shared experience, often moved to tears by the profound connection they forged with the artist.

What’s on display at the exhibition?

A gallery assistant poses with an artwork entitled ‘Four Crosses’ by Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic, during a photocall at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.Credit: AFP

The exhibition presents an immersive journey through her work, showcasing not only objects and props used during her daring performances but also a treasure trove of photos and videos capturing these profound moments of artistic expression.

One of her most iconic performances, «Balkan Baroque,» staged at the Venice Biennale in 1997, features prominently in the exhibition. 

In this visceral work, Abramović meticulously washed a pile of bones covered in blood, a reflection of her deep connection to her heritage, which earned her the prestigious Golden Lion award.

Furthermore, the Royal Academy exhibition unveils four live performances, off-limits to both media coverage and visitor recording, undertaken by other artists on behalf of Abramović. 

‘Nude with Skeleton’ — Live performance by Madinah Farhannah ThompsonCredit: Royal Academy of Arts London / David Parry

Perhaps the most captivating of these reimaginings is The House with the Ocean View, where performers will reside in a confined space for 12 consecutive days, 24 hours a day. 

Axel Rüger, secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, reflects on the exhibition’s significance: «It’s true, we have not really had, at the Royal Academy, done much with performance art in the past, so it is a whole new chapter also for us to do this.» 

«Marina is passing the baton over, as it were, to the next generation of young performance artists, who are reperforming her performances,» he added.

**The retrospective runs at the Royal Academy of Arts from 23 September until 1 January 2024.**Check out the video above for a look inside the exhibition.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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