Thursday, July 08, 2010

The artist will be present

When New York art critics make up their top ten lists at the end of this year, chances are that all of them will include Marina Abramović’s exhibition of performances at MoMA at or near the top. The performance that created the most attention was Abramović’s title piece The artist is present which entailed exactly that; Abramović sitting in the museum for every hour the exhibition was open over the three months of its run. Throughout this time visitors to the exhibition were able to sit opposite the artist for as short or as long a time as they wished. Some visited a number of times, some once, some chose to sit for a few minutes, some for up to an hour and at least one for a whole day (you can see portraits of all the sitters here). 

Intimate and touching the performance drew out all kinds of emotions from the sitters, some leaving with tears streaming down their faces. But, as the days went on it became more than just two people making one-on-one connections, the exhibition also developed into a major event that attracted stories of celebrity queue-jumping, outrage at people hogging the artist’s time and breathless commentary around the artist’s diva-style gowns. And imagine the shock, for those of us (nearly everyone in the world) who weren’t present, to find that the performance, like most performances, was done under the glare of lights and the jostling and hubbub of museum visitors and staff.

This revelation reminded us of the famous and equally surprising photograph of Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis taken as the last shots of Some Like it Hot were put in the can. An intimacy somehow contrived in the heat of attention.

Images: Left Marina Abramovic performing The artist is present. Right Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis and crew filming Some Like it Hot