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Marina Abramovic’s 2010 mid-career MoMA retrospective, The Artist Is Present, propelled the Belgrade-born artist, an art world force since the seventies, into the cultural mainstream. In the five years since, Abramovic has integrated (if not ingratiated) herself into countless collaborations, sometimes giving the impression that Marina Abramovic is always present.
A very abridged survey of her past half-decade might look like this: Out of her MoMA show was born not only a 2012 documentary film, but also the Marina Abramovic Institute, a center devoted to teaching “the Abramovic Method” in Hudson, New York, where Lady Gaga studied before working with Abramovic on her 2013 flop, Artpop. In 2011, Abramovic and her fellow performance-art pioneer Robert Wilson staged a music-theater production at the Manchester International Festival called The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, which transferred two years later to the Park Avenue Armory, where, incidentally, she will return this December to present an adaptation of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations with pianist Igor Levit. Last summer, Abramovic premiered a new “durational performance” called 512 Hours at London’s Serpentine Gallery, followed by a solo show at Sean Kelly in New York this fall. Most recently, this past Saturday, she curated what was billed as an “unforgettable experience” for L.A.-based charity Art of Elysium’s eighth-annual Heaven Gala in an airplane hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, a project reminiscent of the 2011 MOCA gala at which Abramovic famously featured live human heads as centerpieces. In such a blur of contiguous Marina Moments, even genuine fans would be forgiven for experiencing some fatigue.
Abramovic herself is as eager as ever, however, and unperturbed by the perception that she is overexposed. “There are so many rules in the art world,” she said by phone last week en route to Los Angeles for Friday evening’s event. “I don’t like rules and I break them all the time. I don’t care if people think I’m overexposed. What I care about is if I’m going to run out of energy.” To prevent just that, Abramovic spends half her time “recharging,” whether at her home upstate or abroad in places like Brazil, where she plans to spend the next three months. “Overexposure is only a problem if you are drained of energy and cannot come up with new ideas. Every artist has to recognize that and know when to stop for a moment.”
Neither is she concerned that collaborating with commercial brands and pop-culture figures waters down her relevance outside of the circumscribed art world. “I divide the world into two parts: originals, and the ones who follow,” she explains. “Originals are the people who contribute new ideas and can come from any field: literature, music, fashion, poetry, filmmaking, art. It doesn’t matter.” The Art of Elysium gala, for instance, featured pajamas designed by Costume National’s Ennio Capasa, a musical performance by Moby, a DJ set by Elijah Wood, and a cocktail hour at which guests—among them Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Usher, Camilla Belle, and Joaquin Phoenix—were invited to wear noise-canceling headphones provided by Samsung, which underwrote the evening so as to experience silence in a way that heightens the other senses. “Before it was the kings and popes and aristocrats [who sponsored art],” she says. “Now it’s businesses and corporations—and we need them.”
Purists might bemoan a Samsung-sponsored artwork, but in a world where Joan Didion stars in a Céline campaign and Joni Mitchell in a Saint Laurent one, is Abramovic’s willingness to fraternize with brands—and fashion brands in particular—really so offensive? The partnerships have certainly given her a larger platform than any other performance artist has enjoyed, enabling her to broadcast a message that is certainly loud, if not always clear. At this point, it seems publicity is part of Abramovic’s practice.
Returning to the Art of Elysium gala and all its related performances, Abramovic explains that the theme of the evening was “heaven.” “And I thought, ‘What is heaven for me?’” she says. “It is where the light and the dark meet.”
The post Marina Abramovic Curates Another Gala Extravaganza, Has No Intention of Slowing Down appeared first on Vogue.
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