You can love her, you can hate her, but one thing is for sure – you can’t ignore her. Marina Abramovic art leaves no one indifferent. Or we should say – Marina Abramovic leaves no one indifferent. Marina Abramovic’s life, her performances, body art, controversial experiments, celebrity status – all this could be understood as one giant piece of art (by Marina Abramovic, of course). The “grandmother of performance art” certainly moved the boundaries of contemporary art in general, not only those of performance art. Nothing will ever be the same in performance art after this famous Serbian, New York-based artist conducted dozens of breathtaking performances that became the inevitable part of contemporary art history.
To write about Marina Abramovic art pieces you should know is a difficult task. First of all, one could pose a question: Could we speak about art pieces in the art of Marina Abramovic? What is a piece in her art? Photographs of her performances? This is a big question that depicts how performance and conceptual art can be sold or collected. Unfortunately, we do not have enough space here to write about this issue (but, we will soon). In addition, many of most renowned works Marina Abramovic created in collaboration with Ulay – her former partner. They are not in good relations today (read here why), and sometimes it is difficult to present Marina Abramovic’s works excluding the Ulay’s contributions. But, let us forget about their misunderstandings for a moment – in this article we will also mention some works Marina Abramovic created in collaboration with Ulay.
Finally, in this article we want to make connection between important works of Marina Abramovic and art market (auctions, to be more precise). Let us see what can be bought at auctions, and that is related with Marina’s performances! You can’t buy the artist, right? Therefore, some famous works by the goddess of performance art will be excluded from this list (for example, The Artist is Present, 512 Hours, and many more). Simply, it’s difficult to find the photographs or prints from these performances at auction sales.
Scroll down, and take a look at some of the Marina Abramovic’s most renowned works!
To write about Marina’s Carrying the Skeleton is impossible without mentioning one of her most notable performances – Nude with Skeleton. In this performance, the artist uses a replica skeleton to symbolize confrontation with death. The work refers in part to an ancient Tibetan tradition in which Buddhist monks meditate on life, death and mortality by sleeping with skeletons of various stages of decomposition on consecutive nights. As Abramović explains: The work is really about facing your own mortality. It’s something that in our life we fear the most. It is about fear of pain and fear of dying.
Carrying the Skeleton is a logical continuation of the Nude with Skeleton. More info about the piece and where and how you can buy it, you can find here. The chromogenic print of the performance saw its highest hammer price ($108,000) at Christie’s Paris in 2014.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Carrying the Skeleton
The performance The Hero was dedicated to the artist’s father who was a Yugoslav partisan during the Second World War. It’s inspired about the story of Ambramovic’s parents when her mother saved the life of her father. As Abramovic explains: After my father's death I decided to make this work. I am sitting motionless on the white horse with a white flag blowing in the wind. I stay there for an indefinite time. The female voice is singing, from her memory, the Yugoslavian national anthem from the time of Tito. The video image is black and white because I wanted to emphasize the past and memory.
The color coupler print of the performance was sold for $24,500 in 2013. More information about the work you can find here.
Marina Abramovic - The Hero (courtesy of Phillips)
Rhythm 5 was one of the first significant performances in Marina Abramovic’s career. In this performance, Abramović sought to re-evoke the energy of extreme bodily pain, using a large petroleum-drenched star, which the artist lit on fire at the start of the performance. During the performance, the artist almost suffocated. As Marina explains: I construct a five-pointed star (made of wood and wood chips soaked in 100 liters of petrol). I set fire to the star. I walk around it. I cut my hair and throw the clumps into each point of the star. I cut my toenails and throw the clippings into each point of the star. I walk into the star and lie down on the empty surface. Lying down, I fail to notice that the flames have used up all the oxygen. I lose consciousness. The viewers do not notice, because I am supine. When a flame touches my leg and I still show no reaction, two viewers come into the star and carry me out. Marina Abramovic commented later: I was very angry because I understood there is a physical limit: when you lose consciousness you can’t be present; you can’t perform.
The bromoil gelatin silver print of the performance was sold for $20,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2010. You can find more information here.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Rhythm 5 (courtesy of rudygodinez.tumblr.com)
Relation in Space is a performance conducted by Marina Abramovic and Ulay. In this performance from 1976, they ran into each other repeatedly for an hour – mixing male and female energy into the third component called “that self.”. Approaching each other from different sides of the space, Ulay and Abramovic collide with each other in the middle and then disappear from view. Sometimes they do not reappear for another twenty seconds before the process starts to repeat itself. During the early stages, Ulay and Abramovic softly touch each other whenthey pass, almost as if by accident. But the walking gradually turns into running, and the impact of the two bodies grows steadily.
Bromoil gelatin silver print of the performance was sold for $51,300 at Christie’s London. More information, you can find here.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic and Ulay – Relation in Space
Rhythm 0 is probably one of the most famous and most important performances of Marina Abramovic. This performance made her famous. It’s also one of the most significant works in the history of performance art ever conducted. The performance took place in 1974, in Naples. The work involved Abramović standing still while the audience was invited to do to her whatever they wished, using one of 72 objects she had placed on a table. These included a rose, feather, perfume, honey, bread, grapes, wine, scissors, a scalpel, nails, a metal bar, and a gun loaded with one bullet. As Abramović described it later: What I learned was that... if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.
The gelatin silver print of the performance was sold for $26,600 at Christie’s London. Click here to see how this work trends at auctions.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Rhythm 0 (courtesy of blackieloveless.tumblr.com)
This piece represents a portrait of Marina Abramovic, in what seems to be a jungle, while the artist holds the knife in her hands. Marina Abramovic has traveled a lot. She spent a year on a road across Europe, months in Australian desert, in Tiber, India, and so on. About her experience in Australian desert, Abramovic stated: For me, Aborigines are the most natural human beings: they live not in the past or in the future but in the present. They have a story, and a meaning for everything. She added: In that desert I spent a lot of time just sitting down: meditating, listen to the silence. This is what opened my universe.
The cibachrome print of the Victory was sold for $63,600 at Christie’s Paris. More information about the work you can find here.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Victory (courtesy of res.cloudinary.com)
Marina Abramovic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. As Yugoslavia violently disintegrated followed by brutal wars, Belgrade became the capital city of Serbia. As she told The Guardian: When people ask me where I am from, I never say Serbia. I always say I come from a country that no longer exists. Balkan Baroque was installed at the Venice Biennale in 1997. In this performance, Abramovic sits amidst an enormous pile of bloody cow bones, washing them one by one while singing folk songs from her childhood. The title, Balkan Baroque, cues viewers to approach the piece as a response to Abramovic’s war ravaged country, the former Yugoslavia. The installation includes three video projections that convey themes of violence and trauma. For four days the artist sits in the middle of the pile, scrubbing away at 1,500 fresh beef bones. Her dress becomes increasingly stained by blood as she sings folk songs and weeps.
The Cibachrome print of the performance was sold for $33,800 at Sotheby’s Paris. Click here to find out more about the work.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Balkan Baroque (courtesy of thedaysofyore.com)
In the performance Thomas Lips, Marina Abramovic undertakes a range of actions that push her physical limits to an extreme and finally result in the transgression of bodily boundaries. She starts off with eating 1 kilo of honey, followed by the consumption of 1 litre of red wine. Then, she breaks the wine glass with her hand. Slowly, the actions became more violent, culminating in attempts of auto-mutilation, like cutting a five-pointed star into her stomach with a razor blade, an image that has become iconic in the history of performance art. The sculptural installation Thomas Lips from 2005, was shown on monitors that are placed on top of each other and was inspired by this performance.
The Chromogenic print of the 2005 performance was sold for $90,000 at Christie’s New York, and you can click here for more information.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Thomas Lips (courtesy of thegroundmag.com)
The performances that belong to the Dragon Heads series were the first that Marina Abramovic carried out after her separation from Ulay. In all versions, Abramovic sits motionless with a snake slithering around her body. According to Abramovic, the starting point for this work was the following observation: 'Snakes can follow the energy of the planet, wherever you put them.' Thus, the snakes in the performances would actually never go into te audience because they do not slither over ice, which surrounded Abramovic and the snakes. The snakes were to follow the lines of warmth and energy on Abramovic's head and body.
The photograph in color was sold for $2,740 at De Vuyst Lukeren. Click here to see how this work trends on auction sales.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic - Dragon Head (courtesy of flickr.com)
The Lovers is a part of the last Abramovic’s and Ulay’s joint performance. In 1988, after several years of tense relations, Abramović and Ulay decided to make a spiritual journey which would end their relationship. They each walked the Great Wall of China, in a piece called The Great Wall Walk, starting from the two opposite ends and meeting in the middle. As Abramović described it: That walk became a complete personal drama. Ulay started from the Gobi Desert and I from the Yellow Sea. After each of us walked 2500 km, we met in the middle and said good-bye.
The photography of the piece was sold for $2,400 at Freeman Philadelphia. To find out more about the artwork, click here.
Featured Image: Marina Abramovic and Ulay - The Lovers (courtesy of phaidon.com). All Images used for illustrative purposes only.
Read Other Interesting Stories
On 2 March 2020 the established German artist Ulay best known for collaborating with Marina Abramovic passed away in Ljubljana at the age of 76.
In 2005, artist Marina Abramović presented Seven Easy Pieces by reenacting the most important performance artworks made in between 1965 and 1975.