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What Happened to the $2.2M Marina Abramović Raised to Build Her Institute?

This project joins thousands of other follies of contemporary art.

Marina Abramović describing her "Slow Motion Walk" technique inside what was to be the Marina Abramović Institute in Hudson, New York. (screenshot by the author via YouTube)
Marina Abramović describing her “Slow Motion Walk” technique inside what was to be the Marina Abramović Institute in Hudson, New York. (screenshot by the author via YouTube)

Her performances may be timeless feats of endurance, but the millions Marina Abramović raised to build her own art center didn’t last long. A month after scrapping her plans for the Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art (MAI) in Hudson, New York, it seems that the $2.2 million raised toward the project were spent entirely on schematics and a model by starchitect Rem Koolhaas — a far cry from the $31-million price tag for the whole project.

A woman looking inside the architectural model for the institute (photo by Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic)
A woman looking inside the architectural model for the institute (photo by Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic)

According to the New York Post, about $1.5 million of the funds raised came from private donations — including, memorably, from Jay-Z — while another $661,452 were raised from 4,765 backers on Kickstarter. However, because the Kickstarter campaign was specifically earmarked for “the design process” of the MAI, it will not be returned to the project backers.

“The funds were raised not for the renovation itself but specifically for the schematics and the feasibility study,” a spokeswoman for Abramović told the Post. “They were used for exactly that purpose.”

Indeed, at events in Brooklyn and London in the fall of 2014, Abramović made good on her promise to reward $1 backers of the MAI project with a hug. A video shared with Hyperallergic by one such backer shows Abramović hugging hundreds of people over the course of three and a half hours at Kickstarter’s Brooklyn headquarters.

“It’s not unusual for creative projects to change direction over time, or to not work out at all — both on and off Kickstarter,” a spokesperson for the crowdfunding site told Hyperallergic. “This project was to fund the design phase of Marina’s Institute, and it’s unfortunate that the Institute will not be completed. But it’s wonderful that the project’s backers were rewarded for their support of the artist in so many ways.”

Meanwhile, those of us who’d hoped to be rewarded with a visit to a transcendental performance art palace will have to content ourselves with Abramović-flavored macarons.

Marina Abramović tastes one of her macarons. (screenshot by the author via Vimeo)
Marina Abramović tastes one of her macarons. (screenshot by the author via Vimeo)
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