The Man Who Attacked Marina Abramović With a Painting Claims He Did It for His Art

The performance artist was shaken but unharmed in the incident during her retrospective in Florence's Palazzo Strozzi.

Serbian-born performance artist Marina Abramovic during an interview in 2015. Photo by Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images.

Marina Abramović was attacked by a man wielding a portrait of the performance artist. Her assailant struck on Sunday, hitting the artist on the head with the framed canvas. The assault took place in the courtyard of the Palazzo Strozzi, where she was signing books as part of the promotion for her retrospective exhibition, “The Cleaner.”

The gallery’s director Arturo Galansino posted on Instagram: “We’re fine! Everything is fine!” beneath a selfie with Abramović. The statement adds that Galansino expresses “deep regret for the aggression suffered by the artist.” Her attacker was detained by police, Galansino tells artnet News, adding that the incident was shocking.

“Marina Abramović is well and has not suffered any physical harm,” the statement continues. “After checking with the police, she left Palazzo Strozzi with serenity. Immediately after the event she wanted to meet the aggressor for a direct confrontation on the reasons for this action.”

The attacker is reported to be a 51-year-old Czech national, who is living in Florence as an artist. Florence’s mayor, Dario Nardella, tweeted that the man was “not new to this type of gesture.”

The attack occurred after a book signing of Marina Abramović: Interviews 1976-2018, which contains interviews with the artist over the past 42 years. 

Recounting the incident to the local edition of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Abramović says “Among the crowd there was a man who was carrying a distorted painting of my face. He approached me looking into my eyes and I smiled at him thinking that it was a gift for me. In a split second I saw his expression change and become violent, coming towards me very quickly and forcefully. The dangers always come very quickly, like death itself.”

Abramović explains that immediately following the episode she was in shock. “The first thing I asked for was: I want to talk to him, I want to know why he did it. Why does he hate me?” When Abramović confronted the man, who she says she had never met before, he told her “I had to do it for my art.”

“For me, it is difficult to understand and process violence,” Abramović says. “Violence against others doesn’t make art. I was also a young artist who was not famous, but I have never hurt anyone. In my work I stage different situations and put my life at risk. But this is my decision and I set the conditions.”

She adds that in the past she would have been angry about the attack, but that she now feels “compassion” for her assailant.

See a video of the attack below:

“Marina Abramovic: The Cleaner,” 21 September through January 20, 2019, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. 

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