Starring Role

Have We Hit Marina Abramovic Overload?

As Art Basel Miami Beach kicks off, Abramovic talks about her friendship with Lady Gaga, ignoring the critics, and how her early art teachers thought she should be committed.


Have we seen too much of Marina Abramović?

“A Portrait of Marina Abramović”, a striking, nude, 3-D film of the performance artist, premiered Tuesday night during Art Basel Miami Beach. For the full, six-minute movie, filmmaker Matthu Placek slides the camera sixty feet from the rafters of Abramović’s Hudson, NY, performance art space down to her naked body, then to her famous unblinking gaze.

The artist has seemingly been everywhere lately, and at this invite-only screening, there was much talk and joking about the risk of overexposure given her 2010 MoMA retrospective, frequent appearances at art galas, performances, and much-chronicled friendship with Lady Gaga. There’s even a non-profit group, Marina Abramović Retirement Fund Account, with the motto “Stop Marina Now,” noted Cecilia Dean, co-founder of Visionaire, which co-produced the film.

The artist said she’s heard the backlash buzz, but “what really saves me from all that” is that her art has been ridiculed for decades, and she’s always paid no mind to the critics. When she began in the 1970s, art teachers thought she “should maybe be put in a mental hospital.”

Now, she said, she’s out there so much because “at 67, I’m thinking of a legacy of what I’ll leave behind”—and her friendship with Lady Gaga is part of that, she noted. “Here’s an outgoing girl, 27 years old, and 43 million followers on Twitter. Those kids ask ‘What’s she doing with that crazy artist?’ Now I have some of those 43 million following me, which is alright.”

Despite preparations for a show opening later this month in New York, she couldn’t skip this screening, she noted, because going to Art Basel to see a movie of yourself “is like attending your funeral, and who wouldn’t want to control your funeral?”

It was the first major event of Art Basel Miami Beach, a grand Super Bowl of culture held every December in Miami. The invites to the screening, doled out in something of a concentric circle of hip (200 people involved with the YoungArts Foundation invited in the first two hours, then more as the evening wore on) kept the event intimate, if not under-attended. There were more than 40 concurrent parties being held in the city.

Marina’s arrival at Art Basel made waves because she is one of the relatively few artists who annually visit Miami during the commercial art fair. But is her attendance an endorsement of the buying bacchanalia? She only came for two nights, she added.