• Performance

RETROSPECTIVA MARINA ABRAMOVIC: ART MUST BE BEAUTIFUL, ARTIST MUST BE BEAUTIFUL (1975)

De Marina Abramovic

  • Inglés, con subtítulos en español
  • 23 minutos

Warning El video no tiene subtítulos.

What’s the meaning of suffering? Why does Western culture dread pain? These are the reflections in this, one of the first performances by this Serbian artist.


Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful (Copenhagen, Denmark, 1975) was one of Marina Abramovic’s first performances. As in the series Freeing (Freeing the Body, Freeing the Voice and Freeing the Memory in 1976), this piece is not about physical pain but rather about the mental state that can be reached through pain. In the performance’s video, you can see Abramovic violently combing her long hair. With a brush in one hand and a comb in the other, she works on her face and hair, repeating the phrase “Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful”. Her voice betrays what she’s feeling and her face also makes it clear that she’s hurting herself. Now and again, it looks like she’s falling into a trance. That’s when her voice gets softer and the brush and comb strokes less vigorous.

According to Abramovic, the aim of this self-inflicted pain is to free the body and soul from the restrictions imposed by Western culture and from the fear of physical pain and death. In her mind, the performing art can be used to challenge and go beyond physical and mental limits. In previous years, she familiarized herself with the Tibetan and Aboriginal cultures and with the Sufi tribe’s rituals. In these cultures’ ceremonies, the body is driven to physical extremes, in order to take a mental ‘leap’ into another dimension where physical limitations and fear no longer have an effect on the human mind.

In an interview in 1999, Abramovic said about her 1975 performance: “A long time ago I did a piece called Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful. At that time, I thought art had to be disturbing instead of beautiful. At my age now though, I’ve started to think that beauty isn’t so bad”.

This video is also part of the 16-channel installation called 'Video Portrait Gallery' (Abramovic 1975-2002).

© Marina Abramović

Marina Abramovic

The artist

A pioneer of performance all over the world

Since she started her career in Belgrade, Serbia at the beginning of the seventies, Marina Abramovic has been a pioneer of the performing arts, creating some of the most important initial plays of the performance discipline. By exploring her physical and mental limits, she’s resisted pain, exhaustion and danger in her quest for emotional and spiritual transformation.

Abramovic won the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale. In 2010, she put on her first retrospective in the United States and simultaneously acted for more than 700 hours in The Artist is Present at the New York Museum of Modern Art. She founded the Marina Abramovic Institute (MAI), an immaterial platform of long duration to create new collaboration opportunities for thinkers from any field.

Her most recent work has been Walk Through Walls: A Memoir, published by Crown Archetype on October 25, 2016. Her retrospective The Cleaner was inaugurated at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in February 2017 and toured seven other European sites, ending at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, Serbia in 2019. In September 2020, the Bavarian State Opera put on the world premiere of 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, which will go on to tour other places. In 2021, she’ll put on the individual exhibition After Life at the Royal Academy, becoming the first female artist in the institution’s 250 year history to fill all the gallery’s space with her work.

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