In Brief

The Artist Is Pissed: Ulay Sues Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović and Ulay face off during the former's performance "The Artist Is Present" at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. (screenshot via YouTube)
Marina Abramović and Ulay face off during the former’s performance “The Artist Is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. (screenshot via YouTube)

Marina Abramović, the world’s only household name performance artist — Shia LaBeouf notwithstanding — is being sued by her former collaborator and lover, the German artist Ulay. The lawsuit is the latest and most dramatic development in an ongoing battle between the former art world power couple since their separation in 1988.

According to the Guardian, Ulay (real name Frank Uwe Laysiepen) claims Abramović has violated a 1999 contract they both signed regarding works they created together. He has a grocery list of accusations, claiming that Abramović has failed to credit him on many works they co-created, has given him inaccurate statements on sales, and has only paid him four times in the 16 years since the contract was signed. All this is allegedly against the terms of the contract, which stipulated that, after Ulay sold his physical archive to Abramović, 50% of profits would go to the gallery, 30% to Abramović, and 20% to Ulay. Ulay also claims Abramović prevented him from including images of their joint projects in his 2014 book, Whispers: Ulay on Ulay.

“We were living and working in total unity,” Ulay said in an interview while he was working on Whispers. “We used to feel as if we were three: one woman and one man together generating something we called the third. Our work was the third.”

Of course, Abramović isn’t too thrilled about this feud over “the third,” especially as an artist who’s previously been reluctant to pay her workers. She has flatly denied Ulay’s claims and her lawyer says they’re intended to tarnish her reputation.

The case will be heard in Amsterdam later this month.

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