Monday, May 31, 2010

MoMA's Flickr Photostream: Marina Abramović's The Artist is Present

Until recently I was unaware that the Museum of Modern Art has a Flickr photostream.  Then I found myself there, completely rapt, poring over Marco Anelli's portraits of audience members taken as they sat with Marina Abramović at her epic performance, The Artist is Present.  These powerful images convey the intensity of this experience, which moves many participants to tears.  As you can see from the images, this grueling experience also has brought Abramović to tears on more than one occasion.  Today is the last day that Abramović will perform at the MoMA, where for six days a week since March 14th she has been seated on a wooden chair for more than seven hours a day with no breaks whatsoever.  I look forward to reading about her account of the experience after it's over.

The majority of visitors are members of the public at large (a fascinating variety of people), but Abramović's performance has also brought visits from many art world luminaries, as well as famous musicians, actors, and writers.  It's fun to play "spot the celebrity" -- sprinkled throughout the Flickr set of over a thousand photos you will find images of Antony Gormley, Lou Reed, Isabella Rossellini, Matthew Barney, Christiane Amanpour, Rufus Wainwright, Sean Kelly, Sharon Stone, Tehching Hsieh, Andre Serrano, Kim Catrall, Joan Jonas, Marisa Tomei, Björk, and many others.  Because I'm sentimental, my personal favorite is Ulay, who showed up to sit with Abramović at the opening reception.  This is the first time the former couple have “performed” together since their final piece in 1988, where they each walked over 1,200 miles from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and met in the middle to bid each other farewell.

Quite honestly, there is not a lot of prior content that would have drawn me and many others to the MoMA's Flickr photostream.  I hope the success of this series will encourage them to share more exhibition images with us in the future.

Not coincidentally, the VRC has recently added a number of images documenting Abramović's body of work beginning in the 1970s.  These images are available to all faculty and students at the University of Colorado -- see our Web site for information about accessing our collection.

Image: animalvegetable, Marina Abramovic / The Artist is Present (detail), 2010, available from Flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

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