The artist will leave the building, finally: Marina Abromovich wraps up at MoMA
All good things come to an end, and today, one of the best in recent memory wraps up at the end of the day when Marina Abromovich takes her leave of her months-long performance piece, "The Artist Is Present," at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The piece, which gives a four-decade retrospective of Abromovich's work its name, is an abject lesson in the power of economy: Since March, Abromovich has spent 7 hours each day -- all the museum's opening hours -- sitting in a chair in Moma's atrium, silently staring at a chair across from her. By the end of it, she'll have spent nearly 720 hours doing no more than that.
Museum visitors were welcomed to take the empty seat for as long as they liked. Abromovich neither spoke nor acknowledged them; she simply continued her silent vigil. You can watch a live video feed here.
However sparse, the performance has been nonetheless been the most potent of the entire show, owing in no small part to the presence of Abromovich herself (her work being almost entirely performance based, she's hired others to re-enact other pieces at MoMA.) Visitors have described the experience as incredibly moving, a silent communion with a deeply committed artist for whom both physical and psychological sacrifice are elemental to her work.
For me, this piece strips away some of the ungainly gaudiness her work took on in recent years -- Abromovich could be as showy and near-camp as she was spare and visceral, incorporating hokey props and iconography at times that moved her work closer to sideshow -- and distills it down to an emotional core -- a simple invitation in which resides such disarming intimacy to be almost unbearable.
She's drawn a long list of luminaries to the seat, including Lou Reed, Isabella Rossellini and Bjork, to name a handful. If the list -- about 1500 in total -- didn't happen to include you, more's the bad: "The Artist is Present" will not be traveling. Alas.