Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović, born in 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, is a trailblazing performance artist recognised for pushing the physical and mental limits of the human body. 

Educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and Zagreb, she moved to Amsterdam in the 1970s to further her artistic journey. 

Abramović’s collaborations with artist Ulay explored themes of duality and intimacy, while her solo performances, such as ‘The Artist Is Present,’ challenged conventional art perceptions. 

As an influential educator and mentor, her work has profoundly shaped contemporary performance art. Exploring her career reveals more profound insights into her revolutionary approach and enduring impact.

Key Points 

  • Marina Abramović is a pioneering performance artist known for exploring the physical and mental limits of the human body.
  • Her early works, like ‘Rhythm 10’ and ‘Rhythm 5,’ established her reputation for endurance-based performance art.
  • Collaborating with Ulay, she created iconic performances examining relationships and human connection dynamics.
  • ‘The Artist Is Present’ at MoMA in 2010 is one of her most famous solo performances, challenging traditional art boundaries.
  • Documentaries like ‘The Artist is Present’ and ‘The Space In Between’ offer deep insights into her artistic philosophy and career journey.

Early Life and Education

Abramović’s formative years, influenced by her Yugoslav Partisan parents and her early upbringing by her grandparents, she has instilled in her a profound sense of discipline and resilience. 

The contrasting influences of the Red bourgeoisie and the Serbian Orthodox Church imbued her with a complex understanding of authority and spirituality.

Her academic journey at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and post-graduate studies in Zagreb were pivotal, providing her with a formal foundation to explore avant-garde concepts. 

Early performances like Rhythm 10 and Rhythm 5, rooted in her academic and personal experiences, highlighted her fascination with the physical and mental boundaries of the human body, establishing her as a seminal figure in performance art.



Teaching Career

Expanding on her exploration of avant-garde concepts, Marina Abramović’s teaching career at the Academy of Fine Arts In Novi Sad from 1973 to 1975 marked the beginning of her influential role in shaping the future of performance art through education, laying the groundwork for her recognition as one of the best artists.

During this period, she imparted her innovative vision on performance art, emphasising the importance of physical and mental endurance.

As a visiting professor at prestigious European institutions, Abramović continued to mentor aspiring artists, fostering a new generation of avant-garde performers.

Her pedagogical approach was deeply intertwined with her boundary-pushing practices, which resonated profoundly with her students.

Abramović’s dedication to teaching has left an indelible mark, significantly advancing the discourse and practice of contemporary performance art.

Works With Ulay

Marina Abramović’s collaboration with Ulay during the 1970s and 1980s is a seminal period in performance art, marked by profound explorations of duality, intimacy, and the human condition.

Their partnership produced iconic works such as ‘Rest Energy’ and ‘The Lovers,’ which deeply investigated trust, vulnerability, and endurance themes. 

Through these performances, they challenged conventional boundaries, using their bodies and relationships as canvases to reflect on broader human experiences.

Their dramatic farewell at the Great Wall of China in 1988 symbolised the end of their romantic and artistic union. Despite past conflicts, their reconciliation in later years underscores the enduring impact and importance of their collaborative legacy in the world of contemporary art.



Solo Performance Art

Building upon the profound explorations of human connection and endurance witnessed in her collaborative works with Ulay, Abramović’s solo performances further investigate the depths of physical and emotional resilience, often pushing the boundaries of what the human body and psyche can endure. 

Iconic pieces like ‘Rhythm 0’ and ‘Rhythm 5’ exemplify her approach, challenging traditional perceptions of art and culminating in the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale. 

‘The Artist Is Present,’ a three-month performance at MoMA, marked a significant milestone, engrossing audiences with its raw intensity, showing her aptitude for durational performances.




Rhythm 0


6 hours

Rhythm 5

Physical Limits

1 hour

The Artist Is Present


3 months

Through these solo endeavors, Abramović cements her status as a pioneering figure in performance art.



Films and Documentaries

Documentaries and films featuring Marina Abramović provide a profound insight into her artistic journey, capturing the essence of her groundbreaking performances and the philosophies underpinning her work.

The documentary Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, directed by Matthew Akers, offers an intimate look at her 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). 

It emphasizes her iconic performance piece, where she engaged with the audience through silent, mutual gazing.

Additionally, ‘Marina Abramović in Brazil: The Space In Between’ explores her spiritual and artistic expeditionthrough Brazil, delving into rituals and their impact on her creative process.

These films document her extensive career and illuminate the transformative power of her art and its profound emotional resonance.



Marina Abramović Institute

The Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) is a pivotal institution dedicated to advancing and preserving performance art, fostering an environment where innovative exploration and educational initiatives can thrive. 

Established by Marina Abramović, MAI serves as a hub for the future exploration and promotion of performance art through several key initiatives:

  1. Workshops and Residencies: These provide artists immersive experiences to develop their craft and engage with Abramović’s unique artistic approach.
  2. Educational Programs: Offering in-depth learning opportunities for the public to deepen their understanding of performance art.
  3. Research and Archives: Preserving the legacy of performance art through extensive documentation and public engagement.

MAI significantly influences contemporary performance art’s landscape and appreciation through these efforts.



Collaborations and Partnerships

In addition to her institutional contributions through the Marina Abramović Institute, Marina Abramović’s collaborations and partnerships, particularly with Ulay, have profoundly shaped her artistic narrative and the evolution of performance art.

Their work together in the 1970s and 1980s was marked by intense, boundary-pushing performances that explored themes of trust, intimacy, and the limits of the human body.

Their partnership’s dramatic conclusion on the Great Wall of China in 1988 symbolized both a personal and professional turning point.

Despite the breakup, their reconciliation later in life underscores the enduring impact of their collaboration.

Abramović’s partnerships, known for challenging societal norms and fostering creative expression, have considerably influenced her approach to performance art, cementing her legacy as a transformative artist.



Controversies and Criticisms

Amid her celebrated career, Marina Abramović has not been immune to controversies and criticisms, often finding herself at the centre of intense public scrutiny and conspiracy theories. 

Significant controversies include:

  1. Satanism and Pedophilia Accusations: Abramović faced baseless accusations tied to satanism and a pedophile ring, which stemmed from misinterpretations of her artistic practices.
  2. Spirit Cooking Incident: A leaked email about a ‘Spirit Cooking’ dinner led to public outcry and threats, compelling her to change her email address.
  3. Public Perception: Despite her artistic acclaim, some criticize her methods as extreme, questioning the ethical boundaries of her performance art.

These incidents highlight the complex interplay between art, public perception, and societal norms.



Personal Life and Legacy

Marina Abramović’s personal life and legacy are intricately woven with themes of forgiveness, resilience, and the transformative power of enduring relationships. 

Though her collaboration with Ulay in the 1970s and 1980s ended dramatically, it ultimately led to a poignant reconciliation before his passing.

This relationship underscored her belief in the importance of forgiveness and the endurance of challenging experiences. Abramović’s manifesto with Ulay, advocating for freedom, curiosity, and non-harming, encapsulates her life’s philosophy.

Her personal reflections have deeply influenced her art, which consistently emphasizes the necessity of confronting and transcending difficult emotions. 

Abramović’s legacy is marked by her unwavering commitment to exploring and expressing the depth of human experience.



Frequently Asked Questions


What Happened at the Marina Experiment?

The Marina Experiment involved a six-hour performance where the audience could interact with 72 objects, ranging from benign to dangerous, on the passive performer. This highlighted human behavior’s spectrum and examined vulnerability, trust, and performer-audience dynamics.


Why Is Marina Abramović so Important?

Marina Abramović is paramount in contemporary art for pioneering performance art, exploring profound themes of endurance and empathy, and establishing the Marina Abramović Institute, which guarantees this unique art form’s ongoing evolution and support.


Who Was the Performance Artist That Let People Hurt Her?

The performance artist renowned for allowing audience members to interact with her, often resulting in extreme situations, is Marina Abramović, notably featuring in her 1974 exhibition. Her piece ‘Rhythm 0’ is particularly notable for its exploration of vulnerability and human behavior.


How Did Marina Abramović Become Famous?

Marina Abramović’s fame stemmed from her pioneering performance art, including the provocative ‘Rhythm’ series and her collaboration with Ulay, which earned her recognition at the Venice Biennale. 

Her transformative solo work, ‘The Artist Is Present,’ at MoMA further cemented her influence in contemporary art.




Marina Abramović’s contributions to contemporary art, marked by an unyielding exploration of endurance, empathy, and self-discovery, have profoundly reshaped the artistic landscape.

Her collaborative and solo works, particularly those with Ulay and ‘The Artist Is Present,’ exemplify a daring interrogation of human limits and relationships, often leading participants to sat motionless or even lose consciousness.

Through the Marina Abramović Institute, the preservation and promotion of long-duration performance art are guaranteed.

Abramović’s enduring influence cements her legacy as a pivotal and transformative figure in art history.




Marina Abramović, a pioneering figure in performance art, was born in Belgrade in 1946 and has left an indelible mark on the art world.

Known for pushing the physical and mental limits of the human body, Abramović’s journey from her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb to becoming a globally recognized artist is marked by numerous significant achievements.

Her innovative work has been exhibited in major galleries, including the main galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and she has been formally accepted by the institutional art world.

As the first female artist to host a major solo exhibition in the main galleries of the Royal Academy, Abramović has set a precedent for future generations of performance and conceptual artists.

Her collaboration with the German artist Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay) in the 1970s and 1980s produced iconic works that challenged traditional art forms and explored themes of duality and human connection.

Abramović’s method, a practice emphasizing endurance and emotional and spiritual transformation, has been showcased in numerous major solo shows and retrospectives, including a significant exhibition at MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum.

She has also been the subject of documentaries and exhibitions that highlight her long durational performance art, such as the impactful “The Artist Is Present,” where she engaged in silent eye contact with hundreds of participants.

Awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the Venice Biennale and the prestigious Asturias Award for the Arts, Abramović’s influence extends beyond her performances.

She founded the Marina Abramović Institute, dedicated to the preservation and promotion of long durational performance art.

Her works have been presented in key moments at major exhibitions and installations worldwide, underscoring her status as a contemporary art icon.

Despite facing controversies and the deaths of maria and death of Marina Abramović being subjects of rumors, her legacy endures.

Recognized as Marina Abramović Hon RA, her contributions to the visual art form have been profound. Artists like Lady Gaga and exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Center further solidify her impact.

Her life and works continue to inspire and challenge, cementing her position as one of the most influential performance art pioneers of our time.