Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives. © Marina Abramović


Hattie Lloyd 08/09/23

Marina Abramović at the RA

Marina Abramović needs no introduction.

But if she did, it would probably read something like: “a 76-year old Serbian performance artist whose work – spanning a mere four decades – has variously involved 12-day fasts, a break-up on the Great Wall of China, and breathing another person’s breath until the point of passing out.”

And after a few years of pandemic-induced delays, a hugely anticipated exhibition of her work is now open at the Royal Academy.

While she’s performed in London before, this is the first major solo survey of her art. You’ll get to pore over photographs, videos and installations that document her 40+ year career, and experience some of Abramović’s most famous pieces, recreated live by graduates of her performance art academy.

marina abramovic

The House with the Ocean View – courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives © Marina Abramović. Photo Attilio Maranzano

The self-proclaimed ‘grandmother of performance art’ creates work that lies somewhere between art, protest, theatre, meditation and psychological experiment – and which frequently features the genuine possibility of death. Over the years, she’s lost consciousness while standing in a ring of fire, stood with a bow and arrow pointed square at her heart, and survived on nothing but water for 12 days.

One of her most famous pieces, however, was one in which she did nothing at all. For six hours, she took a completely passive role and allowed audience members to do whatever they wanted to her. In the beginning, nobody moved – but by the end of the session, she had been stripped, pierced with thorns, and even had a loaded gun held to her head. The lessons: 1) humans are terrible, and 2) in the hands of Abramović, even ‘nothing’ can be interesting.

marina abramovic the current

The Current – courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives. © Marina Abramović

The recreated works you can experience live in the RA’s exhibition include Imponderabilia (1977), in which two performers stand nude in a doorway, forcing you to face one of them to squeeze through. Then there’s Nude with Skeleton (2002), which does pretty much what it says on the tin, inspired by a spiritual practice of Tibetan Buddhist monks. All told, there’s a programme of four regular performances, with occasional stagings of other work peppered across the run too, including a couple of never-before-seen pieces conceived especially for this exhibition.

And as you’d expect for a show where the audience plays such an integral part, there’s plenty of ways for you to get involved too. The accompanying events programme includes workshops in performance art, sketching evenings, and free Lates for under 25s with live music, pop-up bars, themed activities and after-hours access to the exhibition.

Maybe you’ll go for the unique opportunity to witness an artist whose work has evolved over the years because their chosen artistic medium, the body, is itself is constantly changing…

…or maybe you’ll just go to witness some really bizarre stuff. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.


NOTE: The Marina Abramović exhibition runs at the Royal Academy from 23rd September 2023 – 1st January 2024. You can find out more, and book tickets (£25.50+), HERE.

Marina Abramović | Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD

Love art? Check out the best exhibitions on in London right now

Marina Abramović at the RA

Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, Mayfair, W1J 0BD