Marina Abramović Biography

(Serbian Conceptual and Performance Artist Known for Her Work Exploring Body Art, Endurance Art and Feminist Art)

Birthday: November 30, 1946 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Belgrade, Serbia

Marina Abramovic is a Serbian conceptual and performance artist currently based in the United States who is known for her work exploring body art, endurance art, feminist art, and the relationship between the performer and audience. She has pioneered a new notion of identity emphasizing the participation of observers by focusing on "confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body". Her work has often courted controversy not only for containing nudity, but also for their perilousness as they occasionally featured bloodshed and otherwise posed threat to herself. In 2007, she founded the Marina Abramović Institute, a non-profit foundation for performance art that operates as a traveling organization. In the recent decades, she has collaborated with several high-profile celebrities like Jay Z, Lady Gaga, and James Franco and has directed the segment, Balkan Erotic Epic, in the British-American anthology film Destricted (2006).

Quick Facts

Age: 76 Years, 76 Year Old Females


Spouse/Ex-: Neša Paripović ​ ​ (m. 1971; div. 1976)​, Paolo Canevari ​ ​ (m. 2005; div. 2009)

father: Vojo Abramović

mother: Danica Abramović

Born Country: Serbia

Artists Serbian Women

Notable Alumni: Academy Of Fine Arts, University Of Zagreb, University Of Arts In Belgrade

City: Belgrade, Serbia

More Facts

education: University Of Arts In Belgrade, Academy Of Fine Arts, University Of Zagreb

Childhood & Early Life

Marina Abramovic was born on November 30, 1946 in Belgrade, Serbia, then part of Yugoslavia, into a family of "Red bourgeoisie” as per her own description. Both her Montenegrin-born parents, Danica Rosić and Vojin Abramović, fought as partisans during World War II and were awarded Order of the People's Heroes, apart from being employed by the postwar Yugoslavian government.

She spent the first six years of her life with her grandparents, often following her grandmother’s rituals in a church. She started living with her parents after her brother was born, following which she began taking piano, French, and English lessons, but not art lessons, even though she enjoyed painting.

She later enrolled into the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1965 to study painting, but eventually became interested in performance art. After completing her graduation in 1970, she obtained her postgraduate degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1972.

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Academic Career

Marina Abramovic began her career by teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts at Novi Sad from 1973 to 1975, when she was launching her first solo performances. During the early 1990s, she served as a visiting professor at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Berlin University of the Arts.

She was also a visiting professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg between 1992 and 1996. From 1997 to 2004, she was a performance art professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Braunschweig in Germany.

Artistic Career

Marina Abramovic began her performing career with a series of visceral performance pieces starting with Rhythm 10, involving twenty knives and two tape recorders, in Edinburgh in 1973. She explored the physical and mental limitations of the body by playing the Russian game of "stab between the fingers" and recording the pain and the sounds as she often stabbed herself during the performance.

In her next piece Rhythm 5 (1974) in Belgrade, she explored ritualization of the Communist five point star by cutting and burning her nails, toenails, and hair in the fire. When she finally leapt across the burning wooden frame, she lost consciousness from lack of oxygen and later lamented, “I was very angry because I understood there is a physical limit”.

Inspired by her last project, she decided to incorporate a state of unconsciousness in her next two-part piece titled Rhythm 2 (1974) at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. In Part 1, she ingested a medicine given to catatonia patients that caused her muscles to contract violently, and in the second, she took another medication given to schizophrenic patients to calm them down.

At the Galleria Diagramma in Milan, she performed Rhythm 4 (1974) in which she kneeled alone and naked in front of a high-power industrial fan, approaching it slowly and breathing air pushing the limits of her lungs. While she had instructed the cameraman against interference in the performance, the latter sent for help after she fell unconscious.

She tested the limits of the relationship between performer and audience in her next piece, Rhythm 0, in which she stood immobile in a room with 72 objects ranging from a rose to a loaded gun. The audience was invited to use the objects on her however they wished without any social consequences, and while they remained passive initially, but as time passed, they turned violent and brutal.

After moving to Amsterdam in 1976, she met and began collaborating with like-minded West German performance artist Uwe Laysiepen a.k.a. Ulay on "relation works" that explored the ego and artistic identity. Among their various collaborative works in the next few years, most notorious was Imponderabilia (1977), in which they stood naked facing each other in a doorway, forcing the public to squeeze between them to pass.

In 1995, she performed the three-piece series Cleaning the Mirror that ran for varying lengths at three different locations: the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford University and Pitt Rivers Museum. In the piece, five monitors simultaneously played separate footages of her scrubbing five parts of a grimy human skeleton in her lap and getting dirtier in the process.

She next collaborated with Jacob Samuel on Spirit Cooking (1996), a cookbook of "aphrodisiac recipes" to provide “evocative instructions for actions or for thoughts”. The following year, she created a multimedia Spirit Cooking installation in the Zerynthia Associazione per l'Arte Contemporanea in Rome, and later published the Spirit Cooking cookbook containing comico-mystical, self-help instructions.

She created the piece Balkan Baroque as a response to the war in Bosnia in 1992-95 and performed it in Venice in 1997, for which she won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale. In the piece, she could be seen vigorously scrubbed thousands of bloody cow bones, referring to the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans during the 1990s, while singing folk songs.

Her 2005 performance Seven Easy Pieces at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City included two of her own works and paid homage to five past artworks like Vito Acconci's Seedbed (1972) and Gina Pane's The Conditioning (1973). During March-May 2010, the Museum of Modern Art hosted The Artist Is Present, a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece where she sat immobile in the museum's atrium while spectators took turns sitting opposite her.

Family & Personal Life

Marina Abramovic was married to Serbian Conceptual artist Neša Paripović from 1971 to 1976. Between 2005 and 2009, she was married to Italian contemporary artist Paolo Canevari, whom she met during her triumphant Venice Biennale episode in 1997.

She also had a 12-year long relationship with fellow performance artist Ulay, with whom she collaborated continuously in 1976-88. He later sued her for not paying him his full share of the sale of various works they made together, the rights to which she had bought in 1999.

In 2016, she revealed having had three abortions throughout her life, adding that having children would have been a "disaster for her work”. She told The New York Magazine that she might have had a child with her ex-husband Canevari had she been young enough to do so.


Marina Abramovic claims that she feels “neither like a Serb, nor a Montenegrin”, and is rather an ex-Yugoslav. She further stated that she never says that she is from Serbia, instead mentions that she is “from a country that no longer exists”.

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