Marina Abramovic's the Artist is Present at MoMA

This massive retrospective will include recreations of past pieces as well as a new, physically demanding work


14 March-31 May

For her first major museum retrospective, veteran performance artist Marina Abramović 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,” Abramović told The Art Newspaper a month before the show’s opening.

Abramović 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. Her preparations for the project include a strictly regulated vegetarian diet, and although she is likely to be surrounded by milling crowds in the museum, Abramović will not speak or respond to anyone during the entire run of the exhibition, an experience she likens to “going into seclusion in the middle of New York”.

“It’s a huge experiment and I’m very nervous. It doesn’t just depend on me, it depends on the public,” she said, adding that she hopes the labour will result in some kind of discovery between the artist and the audience. “In durational performance, you can’t pretend; some kind of truth comes out.”

Abramović’s interest in documenting her work is such that the entire performance of “The Artist is Present” will be recorded using three video cameras—one showing a close-up of the artist, one a close-up of any visitor sitting opposite her, and one a wide angle of the gallery—and a photographer is on hand to take a portrait of every person who participates.

While Abramović is camping out downstairs, the upper floors of the museum will be occupied by other artists and performers recreating some of her best known earlier works each day. These include Imponderabilia, 1977, in which a nude man and woman take up opposite sides of doorway so that visitors must squeeze between them to get through, and Luminosity, 1997, in which a female nude is suspended high on a wall and dramatically lit as a “living” work of art. Illustrated above, Marina Abramović, Portrait with Flowers (detail), 2009.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Marina Abramovic: the Artist is Present'