Marina Abramovic
Biography of Serbian Performance Artist.


Marina Abramovic (b.1946)


Training and Career
Working with Uwe Laysiepen
Later Works
Postmodernist Artists

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One of the top contemporary artists to specialize in performance art, the Serbian artist Marina Abramovic is famous for her high-risk performances that confront pain and even the possibility of death. Her body art explores themes of autobiography and sexuality, as well as the relationship between performer and audience, using symbolism and ritual to enhance her message. During the period 1976–1988 she worked closely with the German artist Uwe Laysiepen. Closely related to conceptual art, her best-known performances include: Rhythm 0 (1974), Rhythm 2 (1974), Impondrabilia (1977), Rest Energy (1980) (with Ulay), Baltic Baroque (1997), and The Artist Is Present (2010). Active for more than 30 years, she has performed at several of the top galleries of contemporary art, and some of the best festivals of contemporary art across Europe. Recently she founded the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI) in Hudson, New York, and is a patron of the London-based Live Art Development Agency. In 2010, the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave Abramovic a major retrospective, the largest exhibition of performance art in the museum's history. Now regarded as a major contributor to postmodernist art, Abramovic has done much to make "Performance" into one of the most cutting-edge contemporary art movements of the 21st century.

Training and Career

Born in Belgrade, she studied at the city's Academy of Fine Arts from 1965 to 1970, after which she completed her post-graduate studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Between 1973 and 1975, she lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts at Novi Sad, while also launching a solo career as a body-related performance artist. In the 6-hour performance entitled "Rhythm 0" (1974), Abramovic stood motionless while the audience was invited to interact with her however they wished, using one of 72 objects/instruments placed on a nearby table. These objects included a thorny rose, feather, perfume, honey, wine, scissors, a knife, nails, a heavy metal bar, and a loaded pistol.

Working with Uwe Laysiepen

In 1976 Abramovic left Yugoslavia for Amsterdam, where she started a personal and professional relationship with the West German performance artist Uwe Laysiepen, known as Ulay. Their most famous joint performance was Rest Energy (1980), in which both held part of a drawn bow and arrow, with the arrow pointed at Marina's heart. In Impondrabilia (1977), both stand completely nude, in a doorway, obliging the public to squeeze between them in order to pass, and to choose which one of them to face, as they do so.

Later Works

Her later works included Baltic Baroque (1997), a performance symbolizing the tragedy of her homeland, in which she scrubbed 1,500 large cow bones whilst singing folk songs. As the event proceeded she became increasingly upset, creating an image of grief for her fellow citizens. The work won her the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. In 2010, during her MOMA retrospective, Abramovic performed The Artist Is Present, her 12 hour 45-minute silent piece, in which she sat motionless in the museum's atrium while spectators took turns sitting opposite her.

Postmodernist Artists

For biographies of other postmodernist artists involved in installation art, photography and video art, as well other late 20th century disciplines, see the following articles:

Nam June Paik (1932-2006)
Korean electronic artist and founder of video installation.

Barbara Kruger (b.1945)
Conceptual artist associated with feminist art and textual graphics.

Andreas Gursky (b.1955)
German artist famous for his computer-modified architectural and landscape photographs.

Christopher Wool (b.1955)
US post-conceptual artist best known for his word art, like "Apocalypse Now" (1988).

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88)
US graffiti artist, who later became a mainstream celebrity.

Damien Hirst (b.1965)
Leading British installation artist and Turner Prize winner.


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