Over the course of nearly three months in 2010, Marina Abramović spent eight hours of nearly every day sitting silently across from what amounted to more than 1,500 visitors to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Titled The Artist Is Present, the performance art went on to inspire a documentary and become her most famous work. (Thanks in no small part to her encounter with her ex Ulay, whose surprise appearance had both of them in tears, not to mention visits from celebrities like Lou Reed, Jay-Z, and Björk.) Now, a dozen years later, Abramović is offering those who didn’t make it to the MoMA another chance to participate (and likely also end up in tears).
On Friday, the 75-year-old artist announced that she is restaging the performance to support victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Sean Kelly Gallery has teamed up with the auction platform Artsy to offer bidders the chance to sit across from Abramović at the gallery’s current survey exhibition of her work in New York City on April 16. Bidding, which ends at noon on March 25, will no doubt be fierce: Just two encounters are up for grabs, with one for a single person and another for two people. The lucky winners will get to have the moment memorialized by Marco Anelli, who photographed nearly every participant of The Artist Is Present back in 2010. The proceeds will go to Direct Relief, which has partnered with groups such as Ukraine’s Ministry of Health to provide requested medical aid and preparing to aid people displaced or affected by the war in the long term.
For Abramović, the conflict in Ukraine is personal. Born and raised in Serbia, and her ties to Eastern Europe have always been a deep influence on her work. Take, for example, “Crystal Wall of Crying,” which she recently completed at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv. In an interview with W, she said that the recreation currently on view at Sean Kelly is an homage to the country. “I really hurt. It hurts so much because war hurts in general,” she said. “Ukraine can be Syria, anywhere. When you make the work and you make the message for the art, you have to create something that is actually transcendental, that can be used in so many different ways, as the society needs at the time.”
Abramović is far from the only artist to support Ukrainians through her work since Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on February 24. Photography print sales have proven particularly popular—and particularly lucrative. One recent East London-based sale, for example, generated more than £135,000 for the British Red Cross and Ukrainian Crisis Appeal through £50 prints. You can find our running list of print sales, ranging from more affordable options to pricier ones that support multiple charities, here.
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