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Marina Abramović finally opens at the Royal Academy in London

Updated: Jan 9

It's three year's late — but finally the hugely anticipated major exhibition by internationally acclaimed Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović is open at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Originally due to be unveiled in September 2020, it was twice postponed — first to autumn 2021 due to the pandemic, and then again due to Covid's endurance. It finally opened on 23 September 2023.

The show is hugely significant. It is the first major solo exhibition of Abramović's work ever held in the UK. And for an artist that has propelled performance art from its experimental beginnings to the mainstream — in a career that spans five decades — the exhibition is long overdue.

Head shot of the artist wearing a red top and with a neutral face
Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present, 2010. Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives. © Marina Abramović. Photo: Marco Anelli

It's arranged in close collaboration with the artist, and it provides an overview of her extraordinary practice with photographs, videos, objects and installations. It also features four of Abramović’s seminal performance pieces, which are re-performed live in the galleries.

The re-performances are the reasons the show was postponed so often. A spokesperson told the Art Newspaper that the “performative and participatory elements” meant it was difficult to hold the exhibition with Covid-19 and its associated restrictions still very much an issue. “It became clear that autumn ’21 was still a potential risk, so to mitigate that risk, we decided to re-programme it two years later when we felt we could be reasonably certain we could present the exhibition as we and the artist had originally intended,” they added.

What is the performance schedule in the Marina Abramović exhibition?

There are daily re-performances in the galleries of four seminal works by Marina Abramović — but they're carried out by the next generation of performance artists who are all cast and trained by the Marina Abramović Institute. This is the planned schedule (although note, it is is subject to change):

  • Imponderabilia — Daily, approx 1 hour per performance. 4–6 performances each day.

  • Nude with Skeleton — Daily, approx 2 hours per performance. 2–3 performances each day.

  • Luminosity — 20 September–4 October, 16–31 October, 13–28 November, 11 December–1 January, approx 30 minutes per performance. 3–4 performances each day.

  • The House with the Ocean View — 5–15 October, 1–12 November, 29 November–10 December. Performed continuously over 12 days, 24 hours per day.

All performances end no later than half an hour before closing time. There are breaks between performances which will vary from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours.

In a hint of what these performances entail, there were reports earlier this year that performers applying to take part in the upcoming show were warned they “should feel comfortable being nude in the public galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts.”

A series of three raised vitrines with step ladders leading up to them. A performer lies on a bed in the right-hand one
Marina Abramović, The House with the Ocean View, 2002. Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives © Marina Abramović. Photo: Attilio Maranzano

Other major Abramović works such as The Artist is Present are strikingly re-staged through archive footage. Another example of this approach will be in the Body Limits section, which will bring together Abramović’s key early performances, but presented through video and photographs.

Originally trained as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, Marina Abramović turned to performance in the early 1970s and established the hallmarks of her practice: every day actions ritualised through repetition and endurance. She is a pioneer in using the live body in her work and has consistently tested the limits of her own physical and mental tolerance.

And what about the critics? Well reviews for Marina Abramović's retrospective are in, and critics seem to broadly love it. But nearly all of them admit the artits's later works on show here are weaker than what came before. And that makes for a slightly uneven show. But there is plenty of praise, with one critic saying “This is the best performance art-related exhibition I’ve seen, by some distance.”

How much are Marina Abramović exhibition tickets?

Tickets are in demand, so pre-booking is recommended. Adult tickets start from £23. Under 16s go free, and if you're 25 & under you can access a half-price ticket.

And if you're planning to book, then you'll probably be keen to know there is a fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition too. You can order your copy of that here.*

Marina Abramović is at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from 23 September 2023 to 01 January 2024

*This website is reader-supported. When you buy through this link, we may earn a small commission.


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