The first major retrospective of Marina Abramovic’s work in Europe opens this weekend at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, celebrating a decades-long career in performance art (18 February-21 May). At a press conference on 16 February, Daniel Birnbaum, the museum’s director, said: “Twenty-seven years ago, before her international breakthrough at the Venice Biennale, we had the honour of featuring Marina Abramovic in an exhibition at Moderna Museet.”
Called The Cleaner, the exhibition contains more than 120 items from the 1960s to the present, including re-enactments of three of the artist’s performance pieces. Live performances are presented alongside films, video art, photography and scenography.
Lesser-known aspects of Abramovic’s output, such as paintings from the 1960s and soundscapes from the 1970s, are also on display, together with family memorabilia and her childhood diaries. At the press conference Abramovic humorously described the process of revisiting her life and career as “almost depressing”.
Born in 1946 in Belgrade, in what was then Yugoslavia, and brought up by politically-engaged parents and her Orthodox grandmother. Abramovic’s experience of dogmatic beliefs and strict discipline had a profound impact on her later work. In Rhythm 5 (1974/2011), however, she sets fire to a five-pointed star—a symbol used in both Communism and Christianity. “I don’t care anymore about my bad childhood, I’ve got good raw material,” she said.
For seven days, between 27 February and 5 March, the nearby Eric Ericson Hall will host a new work created in collaboration with the choreographer Lynsey Peisinger, in which Abramovic will perform with 30 performers, 15 singers and 40 different choirs.
The exhibition was organised with Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, and the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, where the show will travel respectively.