Basel Stripped Bare: Sean Kelly's Booth Will Re-Stage Marina Abramovic's Classic Nude Gateway Performance

Basel Stripped Bare: Sean Kelly's Booth Will Re-Stage Marina Abramovic's Classic Nude Gateway Performance
Glenn O'Brien walks through Marina Abramovic's "Imponderabilia" at Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards
(Photo by Roger Kisby / Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

We already know that Marina Abramovic will likely go down in art history as the first artist to successfully bring performance art into a museum context, thanks to her blockbuster 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. But how about bringing performance to an art fair? This June, Abramovic's dealer, Sean Kelly, will restage the artist's seminal performance, "Imponderabilia," at his booth at Art Basel.

As in the original 1977 performance, a woman and a man will stand, nude and motionless, flanking a doorway — though this time, reperformers will replace Abramovic and her partner Ulay, and the doorway will be the entrance to Kelly's booth. Visitors will have the option of participating in the performance by passing in between the nude performers on the way inside. Less frisky fair-goers can enter through an alternate doorway. In addition to promising an eye-catching display, the restaging defies the expectation that galleries must bring their most commercial work to art fairs.

 

This isn't the first time "Imponderabilia" has been re-performed — in addition to being featured at Abramovic's MoMA retrospective, the piece played a starring role at the second-annual Rob Pruitt Art Awards. (Presenters entered the stage by passing through the pair of nude performers.)

It is also not the first time performance has made its way into an art fair. This year's Armory Show staged several (markedly less nude) performances in its aisles, including a symphonic poem about the financial collapse of Iceland by Örn Alexander Ámundason. Brazil's Luciana Brito Galeria even presented its own Abramovic piece at the Armory Show, staging the artist's "Bed for Human Use," complete with a supine performer lying on top of an elevated wooden slab.

Will deep-pocketed fairgoers have the opportunity to purchase their very own piece of performance art history with "Imponderabilia"? (Questions of logistics and performer compensation aside, imagine entering an art collector's home by walking through Abramovic's seminal work.) The gallery said that while the performance itself won't be for sale, collectors can acquire a limited edition video of the original 1977 performance. Meanwhile, the Art Basel presentation will give new meaning to the idea of seeing iconic artwork in the flesh. 

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