Marina Abramović: “The Artist Is Present”

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With a physical and mental training of several months Marina Abramović prepared herself to be able to concentrate herself for 3 months, 6 days a week, 7 ½ hours a day, on the visitors who would come to sit before her. This performance was part of the exhibition that the Museum of Modern Art in New York devoted to her work in 2010. The exhibition was called The Artist Is Present.

In spite of or maybe thanks to the negative media attention for her controversial art, 850.000 visitors came to see her. People slept in the street in front of the museum. At closing time a new line started to form itself for the next morning. The guards were so impressed that after working hours they also joined the line.

The reactions were stunning. People were touched by the sheer possibility that there was someone who would look deeply into their soul without word or movement. Who would only look and listen, without concern for time, without any special reason and without condemnation. The ‘clean slate aspect’, it was called by one of the visitors. Abramović created serenity, stillness and harmony by focusing her full attention on the other.

The gift of time and attention has become a scarce commodity in our culture. Like me!, thousands of messages and advertisements scream at us every day. Sometimes an artist succeeds in holding up a mirror to the time we live in, searching for an answer together with those who pass by. Sometimes they even find one.

Abramović understood what people of the 21st century need: unique, clean, personal contact – one person being present for the other. And art was transformed into the art of living.

Love translates itself into time and attention!


Marina Abramović, The Artist Is Present, performance Musem of Modern Art, New York, 2010.

This blog was published on ArtWay 11 January, 2015.