July 18, 2024



Marina Abramović at the Royal Academy review: nudity, danger and a whiff of woowoo

Evening Standard

By Ben Luke

September 19, 2023

It’s taken six years of planning, and is three years late, but finally, this epic Royal Academy show is opening. Originally slated for 2020, but postponed due to the pandemic — of all the Covid delays, cancellations and closures, one for a show where you literally rub up against naked humans is perhaps the most understandable — here it is. It’s been reimagined, lost its original title (After Life), gained a thematic rather than chronological structure. The 76 year-old Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović insists it is the best possible presentation of her work.

And, for once, this is not hype. I can’t imagine a better display, especially given that much of it exists as documentation of performances. The staging of this material on film and in photographs is exemplary, and it’s aided by four live pieces from different moments in Abramović’s career, reperformed by Marina-approved artists. I struggled to picture how the vast galleries of the RA could be filled by an artist whose practice has inevitably been largely ephemeral, when they have swallowed and diminished more conventional artists. But there is no sense of padding. The pacing is great: it’s spare where it needs to be, busy and noisy at the right moments.