By Sue Hostetler | August 10, 2013 | People
Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present; 3 months performance The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY 2010
Marina Abramović at PAC Milano 2012
Visiting the valley between May and September is reminiscent of that line from The Great Gatsby: “...that familiar conviction that life [is] beginning over again with the summer.” One of the highlights of summertime in Aspen is always the art scene, whether it’s seeing the newest, most cutting-edge exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum or taking a class from a world-famous artist at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center. In July we welcome two contemporary art icons, the Serbian “grandmother of performance art,” Marina Abramović, who will be lecturing at the ranch, and sculptor Teresita Fernández, a MacArthur Foundation genius grant recipient, who will be honored at the Museum’s annual ArtCrush. Each discusses her own evolution as an artist, the role of women in the art world, and the draw to Aspen.
Besides your talk at the Anderson Ranch, will you be engaged in any special projects while here?
Marina Abramović: I only go places where there is special energy and a reason to go. The nature [in Aspen] is beyond inspiring…[and] the energy that comes from the mountains is so incredible. I also want to talk about my institute, and the past, present, and future of the arts.
Tell us about the Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art.
MA: The institute, located upstate in Hudson, New York, is being designed by Rem Koolhaas. I believe my institute can help solve the problems of the world and address how people can participate—how we can integrate art, science, technology, and spirituality. This is my purpose, to change the world. I want to engage people in the discussion, and I want people to be able to follow my work. Hopefully, we will be ready for programs by the end of 2014.
The contemporary art community is focused on two women this summer: you and Teresita Fernández. There are more institutional and gallery shows than ever featuring female artists, with higher auction prices for art made by women. Have you felt the shift?
MA: I’m of a different opinion…. I don’t have this American obsession with numbers—how many female, male, gay, African Americans, etc., are succeeding. I don’t think art has a gender. I don’t sacrifice my work because I am a woman; I’m [on] the same level as any man. Once you understand that to be an artist is to be a warrior, a soldier, you have to embrace the sacrifice. You have to claim your power. Women are so much more powerful than men anyway.
What’s the best thing about spending time in Aspen and being honored by the Aspen Art Museum?
Teresita Fernández: There is a real engagement with the art community—a great group of serious collectors who are supportive of my work. It’s more thoughtful than just a gala. I’m also open to producing a work while in Aspen… I’m interested in the landscape, such an incredible setting. Part of my work i s about developing ideas and being in places like this that are conducive to thinking and creating. I love picking up and going wherever I need to go. There’s a real freedom and sense of adventure.
Female artists are featured in this summer’s most important art world events such as the Venice Biennale and Art Basel Switzerland; there is finally parity in auction prices for female artists’ work. Do you feel that things are more equal for women than when you first started making art?
TF: I do feel there is more parity. Women have benefited from art being more in demand and visible in contemporary life…. It’s more accessible. If you’re doing good work, it’s going to get out there—the art world is so global, there are so many fairs, so many galleries. That affects who makes art, how much art gets out there, and how it’s sold. There are a million places for your work to be seen, and there is demand. In the end, though, it is the integrity of the work that matters most.
How do you personally grow and evolve as an artist, to continually redefine your career?
TF: If you are in the moment of making art and are truly engaged, you’re not worried about how the art market perceives you. The only way I can be a really good artist is to be in the present. I am much more selective. I want to do fewer things that I am more invested in. There are two kinds of success: the measurable external success and the internal success. As you grow and mature, the stakes are much higher to impress yourself. That internal challenge and desire to reach something more complex becomes everything, in a way. Featured Artist Lecture Series, Marina Abramovi, July 25, 12:30 p.m., Anderson Ranch Arts Center, 970-923-3181. ArtCrush, August 2 at 6 p.m., Aspen Art Museum, 970-925-8050
photography courtesy of Laura Ferrari 2012; Marina Abramović; courtesy ANDERSON RANCH; MoMA, NY; Marco Anelli; Marina Abramović Archives; Sean Kelly Gallery, New York