Marina Abramović is bringing back her “The Artist is Present” to aid humanitarian relief in Ukraine


12 years since its MoMA premiere, the godmother of performance art has turned her iconic piece into a benefit auction in support of the Ukrainian population

Whether or not you’re familiar with the work of pioneering performance artist Marina Abramović, you have almost definitely — albeit inadvertently — come across a short clip or a photograph from her acclaimed The Artist is Present

Having debuted at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in March 2010, this extended performance saw the Serbian visionary perform uninterruptedly eight hours a day for three months for a total of over 700 hours. Sitting quietly at a wooden table across from an empty chair, Abramović waited for visitors to find the courage to take a seat and lock eyes with her. Throughout the exhibition, which came to a close on May 31 of the same year, the conceptual and performance artist, philanthropist, writer and filmmaker met the gaze of 1,000 strangers — including that of her former artistic and romantic partner Ulay — evoking in them all kinds of emotions. 

More than a decade since its MoMA premiere, Abramović has recently announced she will revisit The Artist is Present to raise funds for Ukrainian relief efforts. Here’s everything you need to know for a chance to meet her. 

Relying on Artsy’s auction platform, the legendary artist has invited her followers to bid for an opportunity to take part in a 2022 restaging of her most acclaimed piece to date as part of her ongoing exhibition Performative, on view now through April 16 at Sean Kelly Gallery. Joining forces with photographer Marco Anelli, the same visual artist who documented each one of the visitors who took part in the original MoMA performance 12 years ago, Abramović is giving lucky bidders a chance to have their photograph taken whilst facing her in the revisiting of the show. The shot will be framed in collaboration with Baobab Frames and signed by Abramović and Anelli themselves. Winners will be further rewarded with an exclusive copy of the photographer’s book Portraits in the Presence of Marina Abramović (2021), which comprises all images taken during the groundbreaking MoMA performance. Consisting of two different slots — one for a photo with one sitter, the other for two sitters, currently at $11,000 and $16,000, respectively — the benefit auction runs now through March 25. All proceeds from the initiative will be donated to Direct Relief’s Ukraine aid efforts in the hope to support civilians amid Russia’s invasion of the country.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and are deeply concerned by Putin’s invasion and the unspeakable suffering it has unleashed on the Ukrainian people,” Sean Kelly Gallery said in a statement. “Marina has made work in Ukraine and has many ties to the area. We condemn this act of aggression and support Direct Relief’s humanitarian efforts.”

Earlier this month, the artist remembered the Jews who lost their lives in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, during one of the most violent massacres of the Holocaust. Her thoughts also went to those who, nearly a century later, are enduring the consequences of the Russian attack. “80 years ago, Nazi troops led by Adolf Hitler were involved in the killing of innocent people at Babi Yar in Ukrainian Kyiv,” she said in a video message shared on Instagram. “Today, Russian troops led by Vladimir Putin are involved in the bombing and killing of innocent people at Babi Yar.”

“How we united to defeat the insane Nazi regime, the world must unite to help Volodymyr Zelensky and the brave men and women of Ukraine,” she added. “This is everyone’s battle.”

Marina Abramović’s benefit auction is open now through March 25. Visit Artsy to place a bid.

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