Mad About Marina: An Obsessive's Guide to "The Artist Is Present"

Mad About Marina: An Obsessive's Guide to "The Artist Is Present"

With performance artist Marina Abramovic about to end her nearly three-month marathon performance piece at MoMA on Monday, everyone in the art world is jockeying for a chance to sit across from the artist — or at least write about the process involved in securing that much-desired seat. Every action Abramovic performs in The Artist Is Present has been greeted with speculation about its meaning, too. Why did she remove her table? How does she pick the color of her outfits? How — dear lord, how! — does she pee?

The museum has been documenting every person who has sat with Abramovic, including art-world luminaries like her dealer, Sean Kelly, and artists Tehching Hsieh and Terence Koh. There was also an unidentified man who appeared to have a whip in his hand who joined the artist for a mere two minutes. Lest any endearment or oddity of Abramovic's performance escape notice, ARTINFO has compiled a helpful guide to the coverage the show is getting as it winds down.

  • The Crying: A good percentage of the people seem to break into tears while sitting with her, a curious phenomenon that is catalogued on a Web site neatly called Marina Abramovic Made Me Cry.
  • The Velvet Rope: New York magazine has devoted a handful of pages to the performance, revealing that MoMA has been letting its employees queue up before the museum opens. Certain VIPs have also been given preferred access to the artists, including artist Matthew Barney and actress Marisa Tomei. Officials at the museum say that special treatment will end. We’ll see.

  • The Exhibitionism: Over in New Yorks critical pages, Jerry Saltz declares Abramovic’s work “compelling” but “narcissistic” and applauds New York politicians for tolerating the nudity-filled show. “It is especially thrilling that no Mayor Giuliani equivalent showed up to close the institution because it offended us or him,” Saltz writes.

  • The Ex-Cathedra Opinion: Meanwhile, philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto, who wrote a catalogue essay for Abramovic’s show, takes to the New York Times' new online forum "The Stone" to discuss his experience sitting with her, culminating with a rumination on his time as a soldier in Italy. It’s a wonderful piece: too bad the fact that Arthur Danto is blogging suggests that the end is probably near.

  • The Exhibitionism Gone Awry: Art Fag City links to a cartoon that displays some of the potentially awkward side effects of Abramovic’s Imponderabilia, a work in which she and her former lover and collaborator Ulay — who was among the first to sit with the artist — stood naked at the entrance to a gallery. The work is being restaged on the sixth floor of the museum.