Marina Abramović Assaulted by Man Who Says He Did It for Art’s Sake

Abramović was leaving a book-signing event when her assailant approached with a self-made portrait of the performance artist, suddenly smashing it over her head.

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 via YouTube)

“I had to do it for my art.”

That’s how Marina Abramović’s attacker justified smashing a self-made portrait of the famed performance artist over her head. Reportedly a 51-year-old Czech artist living in Florence, the Italian city’s mayor, Dario Nardella, tweeted that Abramović’s assailant was “not new to this type of gesture.” Authorities have not yet named the man in question.

The incident occurred in the courtyard of the Palazzo Strozzi, where the artist was signing books in promotion for her retrospective exhibition, The Cleaner, at the Florentine gallery.

The gallery’s director Arturo Galansino posted on Instagram that Abramović was unharmed by the assault, posting a selfie with the artist. “We’re fine! Everything is fine!” read the photo’s caption. “Marina Abramović is fine and has not suffered any physical damage. After checking with the police, she left Palazzo Strozzi with serenity. Immediately after the incident, she wanted to meet the aggressor for a direct confrontation on the reasons for this action.”

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Stiamo bene! Everything is fine! Il direttore della Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi Arturo Galansino, curatore della mostra “Marina Abramović. The Cleaner”, in corso a Palazzo Strozzi a Firenze (fino al 20 gennaio 2019), esprime il suo sentito dispiacere per l’aggressione subita dall’artista nel cortile di Palazzo Strozzi in data odierna. L’episodio si è verificato subito dopo la conclusione di un altro appuntamento di grande successo di pubblico per la firma del suo nuovo libro di interviste “Marina Abramovic Interviews 1976-2018”, evento che ha concluso una trionfale settimana di eventi con l’artista a Firenze, culminata nella conferenza pubblica al Teatro del Maggio Musciale Fiorentino a cui hanno partecipato oltre 1.500 persone. Marina Abramović sta bene e non ha subito alcun danno fisico. Dopo le verifiche con le forze dell’ordine ha lasciato Palazzo Strozzi con serenità. Subito dopo l’accaduto ha voluto incontrare l’aggressore per un confronto diretto sulle ragioni di questa azione.

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Speaking with the local edition of the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, Abramović said that she initially thought the man was approaching her with the painting as a present. That was before his expression suddenly changed, and he became very violent. Abramović recalls that she was suddenly trapped inside the portrait’s frame while guards apprehended her assailant and she was whisked away from the scene by the Palazzo’s director.

“Why this hatred against me?” Abramović asked. “What’s the reason? Why this violence? I had not done anything. I had never met him before. He said: ‘I had to do it for my art.’ This was his answer.”

The performance artist also made a distinction between her work and her attacker’s actions. “Violence against others doesn’t make art. I was also a young artist who was not famous, but I have never hurt anyone. In my work I stage different situations and put my life at risk. But this is my decision and I set the conditions.”

An image of the attacker in custody (screenshot from the video by the author)

Italy has not exactly been kind to Abramović over the last couple months. In August, a promotional poster the artist designed for the Barcolana sailing regatta in the Gulf of Trieste caused controversy. It’s migrant crisis-related refrain, “We’re all in the same boat,” angered the rightwing mayor of Trieste, Paolo Polidori, who compared the poster to Mao Zedong’s Communist political propaganda.

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