Marina Abramović Accuses Jay Z of Betrayal Over ‘Picasso Baby’ Video

She says she feels "totally used."

Jay Z and Marina Abramovic during the 2013 shoot for "Picasso Baby."
Photo via Consequence of Sound.

Marina Abramović has dropped a bombshell. In an interview with Spike Art Quarterly, the performance art icon accuses Jay Z of breaking a contract with her. She allowed him to adapt a performance of hers, she says, in return for a promise to support the Marina Abramović Institute, which she is building in Hudson, New York. But she says the rapper never came through with the promised support.

She says she feels “totally used.”

“I will never do it again, that I can say,” she told Spike’s Kolja Reichert. “Never. I was really naive in this kind of world. It was really new to me, and I had no idea that this would happen. It’s so cruel, it’s incredible. I will stay away from it for sure.”

As you’ll recall, the art world went insane when music mogul-turned art collector Jay Z recorded a video for his song “Picasso Baby” at New York’s Pace Gallery in summer 2013. In it, he riffed on Abramović’s performance The Artist is Present, from her eponymous Museum of Modern Art retrospective, in which she stared into museum-goers’ eyes, one at a time, in the museum’s atrium. In the video, Hova raps to one or two people at a time in the white-cube gallery setting.

Marina Abramović. Courtesy Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images.

Marina Abramović. Courtesy Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images.

Interestingly, there’s been an especially persistent rumor that he performed the song nonstop for hours in some sort of durational performance art piece, which isn’t true; I was there, and he just did multiple takes, as you do when you’re shooting a video. Many thought Jay Z, dissatisfied with being a performing artist, was now aiming to become a performance artist, which gave rise to some hand-wringing. “Performance art has died today,” tweeted New York dealer Magda Sawon.

Along with art-world VIPs like MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach, New York magazine critic Jerry Saltz, New York Times critic Roberta Smith, and artist Sarah Sze, Abramović herself took part in the shoot.

“Yes,” she says, “but there was one reason for this that I can’t talk about. I am very pissed by this, since he adapted my work only under one condition: that he would help my institute. Which he didn’t.”

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. Photo by Marco Anelli. © 2010 Marco Anelli. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery.

It’s not the first time the artist has pointed the finger. She complained in the New York Times magazine in 2012 that MoMA “completely ran over me.” After saying that “I got so little I don’t want to tell,” she tells: She was paid only $100,000 for her performance, she said, which covered “one year of my work, plus how much I pay for assistants and office rent.”

One starts to wonder what Abramović thinks “I can’t talk about it” and “I don’t want to tell” mean.

The rapper could not immediately be reached for comment.

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