When I read New York Magazine’s explanation of how people got to sit with the artist in her MoMA atrium work titled, “The Artist Is Present” (2010), I got pretty mad. I don’t think that I was the only one who wanted the whole thing to be somewhat democratic egalitarian, even though I suspected it wouldn’t be, but the reality is worse than I imagined:

But the number of everyday museum visitors who make it to the front of the line may be as low as the number of people who get a table at Minetta Tavern via the reservation line. That’s because the door policy is anything but democratic: Every day by 10:30, when the museum officially opens, ten to fifteen people are already waiting inside, having taken advantage of the early access granted to employees. And they aren’t even first on the list, because just before the show begins, Abramovic’s assistant brings in a handful of VIPs who skip the line altogether. Because some people choose to sit with Abramovic for an hour or longer, this means that, occasionally, not even MoMA employees make it in front of her. Last Thursday, for instance, only nine people sat with the artist, and Björk and her family accounted for a third of them.

And then there’s the VIP line of Abramović’s friends, friends of the artist’s assistant, and everyday celebritites (New York is full of them).

I’ll be the first to admit that I have Abramović fatigue — do we have to see ALL those pictures of people sitting with her — but the fact that she’s far from accessible makes me dislike a work by her that I actually once liked. The whole “artist as celebrity” thing is getting pretty boring. I’m not saying that all art needs to be democratic all the time but I will tend to support art works that are over those that aren’t.

Hat tip Art Fag City

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

22 replies on “Is Marina Abramović An Undemocratic Insidery Artist?”

  1. “artist as celebrity” – well I don’t think that going away anytime soon. I’m just content to satirize the whole scene…

  2. When I read Arthur Danto’s piece on the Times’ new philosophy blog The Stone about sitting with Abramovic my curiosity was piqued by his admission that he and his companion were given preferential treatment. His fawning admiration for her in the accompanying piece was drained of power from that point on.

    I don’t think they ever said it would be fully democratic or egalitarian might be a better world. I think what this shows, once again, is how entrenched the entitlement factor is in our little society.

    One day people will throw stones at our houses I suppose. Of course, i’ll have a shotgun and an erection then. They can choose which weapon they want to be dispatched with. now THATS democracy!

    1. I do agree that egalitarian might be a better word choice but, just to clarify, I didn’t expect that there wouldn’t be some cronyism involved, just not so much.

  3. I think this practice might already be over. A friend of mine (and a close friend/historian of Marina’s) set out to sit last week, and early access wasn’t an option. She got there at 6am with the rest of the diehards.

  4. While I can understand the premise, and I think the line experience can be nearly as intrinsic to piece as sitting with Marina, NY Mag is just wrong about Barney, Bjork, and their daughter.

    As the flickr portraits show, they were sitters No. 21-23 on Day 58. And they barely took any time at all. Day 59 did only have nine sitters, but they happened to be duration-loving plebes.


    She removed the mention of it since, but artist Nina Meledandri, who has been blogging the crap out of this piece [and has sat with Marina 30 times so far], was the first to report that Abramovic stayed late for Bjork & co, not that she started early.


  5. Utterly fucking vacuous. Both the ‘artwork’ and bothering to write about it.

    That probably includes me too for commenting on it.

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