Provocative performance artist Abramović returns to Amsterdam

Performance art pioneer Marina Abramović turns to the Dutch television interviewer sitting next to her and tells him to take his clothes off. And he obliges.

“I’m still shaking. But when Marina Abramović tells you to take off your clothes, you do it,” Max Terpstra, 25, a journalist for the NPO1 television channel said as the interview ended.

Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum of modern art is hosting a retrospective exhibition featuring around 60 of the boundary-pushing works of Abramović, regarded as one of the world’s foremost avant-garde performing artists. From mid March 2024, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Abramović (77), whose career spans five decades since she emerged from her birth city of Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s, moving to Amsterdam and New York.
The edgy exhibition, simply titled “Marina Abramović”, features famous works including the 1974 “Rhythm 0” and a re-performance of the provocative 1977 work “Imponderabilia”. In “Imponderabilia”, visitors have to squeeze between two naked performers, one male, the other female, to enter into the exhibit. Another work, called “Luminosity”, features a naked woman suspended on a bicycle seat against a wall.

“Four Crosses: The Good” (2019), “The Current” (2017), “The Artist is Present” (2010), “The Hero” (2021). Photo credits © Marina Abramović archives.

In “Rhythm 0” seen on video at the Stedelijk Museum, Abramović sat motionless on a chair for six hours, while the audience could select from 72 objects to be “used” on her in any way they liked. The objects included flowers, honey and grapes, but also knives, a scalpel, scissors and a gun. At the time, the self-proclaimed “grandmother of performance art” emerged from the experience almost naked, crying and bleeding, with rose thorns embedded in her stomach. One man even pointed a loaded gun at her. 

Her work often challenged the boundaries of human endurance with her mind and body paying a toll. “But it was worth every minute. I would never change a thing,” Abramović told AFP in an interview.

Beautiful things

Abramović Amsterdam exhibition represents a homecoming for her, said Stedelijk Museum director Rein Wolfs. Marina Abramović holds a Dutch passport, has a bank account here and even maintains a bicycle in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Museum said.

“Marina has a lot of history here. Some of her most important works started to come out during that period, so she is very much linked to Amsterdam,” Wolfs told AFP. It was here she first met and later lived with her closest collaborator, the late Frank Uwe Laysiepen, better known as “Ulay”. 

“Amsterdam is full of memories and beautiful things. It is so emotional for me to come back,” Abramović told AFP a few days ahead of the opening of her exhibition. “I was really attracted by the human aspect here. The freedom to be able to say whatever you want,” she said. “But everything is going backwards these days,” she lamented. 

“It’s not just Amsterdam, not just Holland, but the entire world. All that political correctness in so many ways really restricts the freedom of artists,” she said, adding: “It’s so difficult to find the right kind of balance”. 

Provocative performance artist Abramović returns to Amsterdam

From the Marina Abramović exhibition. Photo credits © Foster + Svensson archives.

Dressed in her trademark black dress, fingernails painted bright red and walking with a cane, Marina Abramović reflected on her work. Asked about telling a journalist to disrobe during an interview, Abramović said it was not part of performance art, but a response to a comment he made about nudity in her work. 

“You know, this young kid was talking about nudity. He was looking at ‘Luminosity’ with this naked woman on the wall, saying he was very uneasy with it… afraid of his own nudity. I said, it’s OK. You’re now with me. We do exactly the things we are afraid of. Can you take your clothes off and get rid of your fear right here?” she said. 

“That was the weirdest interview of my life,” said NPO1 journalist Terpstra. “I am a huge fan of Abramović, but what she just did there was next level.”

The largest retrospective of her work ever held in the Netherlands

Over 60 key works spanning five decades trace the development of the prolific oeuvre of the pioneer of performance art, from her early work, created in former Yugoslavia and in Amsterdam, to the pioneering performances with her partner Ulay and works from her solo practice, in which she is still active today. 

The survey features photos, videos, sculptures, and live reperformances of four iconic performances that will be staged in the Netherlands for the first time: Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful (1975), Imponderabilia (work with Ulay) (1977), Luminosity (1997) and The House with the Ocean View (2002). As a visitor, you are invited to take part in two performances: Work Relation (work with Ulay) (1978) and Counting the Rice from the Abramović Method. 


Marina Abramović has been a prominent figure in performance and body art since the 1970s and is considered one of the most important founders of this art form. She brought performance art from its experimental beginnings into the mainstream. Using her body as her medium, Abramović consistently tests her mental and physical endurance. Together with artist Ulay, whom she met in Amsterdam in 1975 and became her partner, she caused an international sensation with long-durational performances that pushed their boundaries to the limit. In her later solo work, she focuses on spirituality and creating an exchange of energy between herself and the audience. 

There are daily performances in the exhibition at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam from 10:30AM to 17:00PM. The performances will be reperformed at different times, sometimes for hours or days at a time, by performers trained in the Abramović Method. The live performances can be both intimate and confrontational. 

The exhibition Marina Abramović is organized by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The exhibition is curated by Karen Archey and Nina Folkersma at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and Andrea Tarsia at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. 

Marina Abramovic exhibition supporters and sponsors in the Netherlands

The exhibition is generously supported by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, the Blockbusterfonds, the benefactors of the Marina Abramović Circle, Fonds 21, the benefactors of the Stedelijk Museum Fonds and the Mondriaan Fund, and sponsored by ABN AMRO Bank. Marina Abramović work can be seen at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) until July 14, 2024. 

People culture at Foster + Svensson

At Foster + Svensson we nurture and foster creativity and work-life balance. We believe that people get most of ideas outside of work, while being inspired at any place. Most of the ideas are coming out during open discussions too, which are human, more appealing and have greater impact than the one imposed. Therefore we foster friendly environment at work, so we allow our employees to explore client brands and products more deeply, than just getting the brief from them. From point of being creatively amazed, to point of being punctual towards client. Free to wonder, yet disciplined in work. 

We also highlight the importance of constant informing and educating ourselves, either by upgrading formal education, or by workshops, trainings, conferences accessing and reading high quality literature, visiting museums, galleries, exhibitions, theatres, and events. That is why we encourage people at Foster + Svensson to read books, magazines and articles about art, design, architecture, history, people, photography, popular culture, lifestyle, travel, graphics, decorative arts, science, and technology, but also to educate and update ourselves on client industries, latest trends, reports, and news. Such information we collect, we use for upgrading ourselves in a process of constant exploration and learning, where we set future foundations in the industry we work. 

This is the very reason why we always recommend visiting a museum, gallery, and specially exhibition of Marina Abramović at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. 

Published by France 24 and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Article written and copyright © ANM, AFP, France 24, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. 
Photos credits and copyright © Marina Abramović – Four Crosses: The Evil (positive), 2019 (detail). Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Foster + Svensson. 


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