Marina Abramovic may be the world’s most famous performance artist but she’s not the most bankable artist out there. Lately she’s been on a fundraising tear including a Kickstarter campaign and now a book deal:
Crown Archetype will publish Ms. Abramovic’s memoir in the fall of 2016, to coincide with the artist’s 70th birthday. The book will chronicle her childhood growing up in the former Yugoslavia, where her father served as a commander during World War II and her mother was a major in the army. It will also describe her evolution as an artist as she tested the limits of her physical and mental endurance, burning, cutting, starving and whipping herself in some of her more challenging works.
In a statement, Molly Stern, the senior vice president and publisher of Crown Archetype, called Ms. Abramovic “a born storyteller with a unique voice and original point of view.”
Such a book deal raises a question about art breaking out into the mainstream. Crown is taking a big bet that interest in Contemporary art and performance art is about to be far greater than it has ever been before where such books would have been published by niche art book publishers.
All of this fundraising activity has led Bloomberg to write a detailed article on Abramovic’s financial activities in pursuit of her own financial security but also her dream of establishing a $30m foundation in Hudson, NY. Artists being savvy about generating income, however, doesn’t always sit well with the popular notion of art and artists:
Like many artists, Abramovic has taken the corporate dollar. Last summer she collaborated with Adidas, lending the shoe company one of her and Ulay’s 1970s works, Work/Relation, for a World Cup commercial. In the three-minute, black-and-white film, 11 performers wearing Adidas sneakers demonstrate that the most efficient way to carry stones from point A to point B is through teamwork. “Marina Abramovic, sellout?” asked New York magazine after the commercial aired. The magazine was not her only critic.
Abramovic was surprised by the reaction and insists she did the ad primarily for exposure and to reach an audience that might not yet know about performance art. She was paid about $150,000, she says, and spent $50,000 producing the film, a pittance compared with Kanye West’s reported $10 million contract with Adidas or basketball star Kevin Durant’s $300 million deal with Nike. “I’m not sorry,” says Abramovic. “It was the right thing to do for my institute.” In the past, she points out, art was sponsored by the pope, aristocrats, and kings. They don’t seem as interested in art anymore. “Now it’s sponsored by industry and by individuals—that’s the reality.” As for endorsing Adidas, she says, “People have to wear shoes, so what’s the problem with black shoes with three stripes. I don’t get it. … People have very old-fashioned view that artists should have nothing, for some reason. But I don’t understand why I should be paid less than the plumber who comes to fix your toilet.” Unlike most plumbers, however, Abramovic is in demand on the lecture circuit, and her fee is around $15,000.
Marina Abramovic to Publish a Memoir in 2016 (NYTimes.com)
Marina Abramovic Tries to Monetize Performance Art (Bloomberg Business)