The performance artist Marina Abramovic received Spain’s most prestigious culture prize—the Princess of Asturias award for the arts (laureate)—at a ceremony on 22 October in Oviedo, the capital of the principality of Asturias. The annual awards, presented by the non-profit Princess of Asturias foundation, are given to individuals and institutions who have excelled in the cultural, social, humanitarian, scientific and technical fields.
A statement from the award jury says: “Imbued with a desire for permanent change, Abramovic’s work has brought a profoundly human essence to experimentation and the search for original languages. Abramovic's courage in her dedication to absolute art and her adherence to the avant-garde provide moving experiences that demand intense involvement on the part of the spectator and make her one of the most thrilling artists of our time.”
Abramovic says in a statement: “I am emotionally touched, humbled, and proud to be the recipient of this prestigious award.” A series of the artist’s work, including the video Carrying the Milk (2009), are on show at the School of Arts and Crafts housed in the former La Vega Arms Factory in Oviedo located in northwest Spain.
In her most recent film, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, Belgrade-born Abramovic enacts the deaths of seven protagonists in famous operas—usually at the hands of a man—played in Abramovic’s work by the Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe. Her other key works include Rhythm 5 (1974), where she lay in the centre of a burning five-point star to the point of losing consciousness, and The Artist Is Present (2010) when she sat and locked eyes with hundreds of visitors to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Previous Princess of Asturias arts laureates include the South African artist William Kentridge and the US artist Richard Serra. Other 2021 winners include the activist Gloria Steinem (Communication and Humanities) and the French writer Emmanuel Carrère (Literature).