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Jay Z and Marina Abramović filming the “Picasso Baby” music video at Pace in July 2013. (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

It’s been nearly two years since Marina Abramović made her appearance at the shoot for Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby” music video, but the events of that day are still fresh in her mind.

“In the end it was only a one-way transaction,” she recently told Vienna-based art magazine Spike. “I will never do it again, that I can say. Never. I was really naive in this kind of world. It was really new to me, and I had no idea that this would happen. It’s so cruel, it’s incredible. I will stay away from it for sure.”

The grand dame of endurance-based performance art, who has become much more of a public celebrity since her 2010 Museum of Modern Art piece “The Artist Is Present,” is peeved that Jay Z hasn’t supported her gesamtkunstwerk, the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI). While James Franco and Lady Gaga have championed the MAI project and the so-called “Abramović method” that will be taught there, the famous MC was apparently impervious to Abramović’s enticing and hypnotic … PowerPoint presentation?

“The day before, he came to my office and I gave him an entire PowerPoint presentation and said: OK, you can help me, because I really need help to build this thing,” Abramović told Spike. “Then he just completely used me. And that wasn’t fair … I am very pissed by this, since he adapted my work only under one condition: that he would help my institute. Which he didn’t.” (Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, founder of the art gallery Salon 94 and producer of the “Picasso Baby” video, claims he did.)

The rest of the interview — which includes “questions” like this gem: “When you rubbed your forehead with Jay-Z’s, it seemed like an economical transaction: I grant you the right to use my piece, but in reverse you have to provide a space for my brand within your campaign” — is worth reading if only because Abramović is uncharacteristically candid about how her work and image have changed since the MoMA blockbuster. As for the “Picasso Baby” debacle, it wouldn’t take much for Jay Z (who dropped $4.5 million on Basquiat a few months after touching foreheads with Abramović) to right the situation. Besides, there must be some naming rights still up for grabs at MAI; who wouldn’t want to rehydrate, after a grueling Abramović method session, in the “Blue Ivy Carter Water Drinking Chamber”?

Update, 5/21, 9:55am ET: The Marina Abramović Institute has issued a formal apology to Jay Z and Abramović, explaining that the rapper had in fact donated money to the MAI project. The statement, publish by the New York Times, reads:

Marina Abramovic was not informed of Shawn “Jay Z” Carter’s donation from two years ago when she recently did an interview with Spike Magazine in Brazil. We are sincerely sorry to both Marina Abramovic and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter for this, and since then we have taken to appropriate actions to reconcile this matter.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

18 replies on “Marina Abramović Is “Very Pissed” at Jay Z [UPDATED]”

  1. Earlier today I read a post about Jay Z providing a receipt demonstrating that he did support the program generously.

  2. I was a little surprised she would align herself with the likes of Jay Z in any way, shape or form. Well, more accurately, I was disappointed.

  3. Huh? Did I say anything about race??? Your comments calling her “Ms. White as a bloody Ghost” and referring to “her disgusting corpse-like white skin” are EXTREMELY racist. What if someone wrote those same things about the color of Jay Z’s skin? Can you not see that? Or are you CRAZY?

    I consider Marina Abramovic a very talented and intriguing artist, and I consider Jay Z and his wife pop stars and entertainers who are not in her league. They’re rich and famous, yes, but if they are what you consider “black global cultural icons,” you need to experience some actual culture.

  4. Wow, you really read a lot into one sentence. I didn’t say he needed her for attention, but that he (and she) are getting it.

    So, is he self-made or was it by the grace of God? Because if he is self-made, then God didn’t help. But if God’s grace shone upon him, then he isn’t self-made.

    Also, by definition Caucasians and Neanderthals are from Earth.

    1. Don’t forget there is a third whore here…the media, which makes points reporting and then makes points again by reporting what a bad job of reporting they did.

  5. I’m not even going to take my precious time to read what you wrote beyond the first bits, but GUESS WHAT? I AM NOT WHITE!!!

  6. Sorry you thought my post was about race.
    For what it’s worth, I’m only part Caucasian. In fact, Beyonce and I have something in common. We both have Native American ancestors. Hers are Cherokee. Mine are Lakota. I spent some time helping on the Rosebud reservation last summer – one of the poorest places in America. So I know about hungry kids and oppression. I’m poor. I voted for Barack Obama twice (still have the bumper sticker). And I hate Donald Trump too.

  7. I’m starting to think Abramovic is 15 years in to a performance where she becomes a walking joke.

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