No, Marina Abramović Is Not Giving Back the Money She Raised for Her Scuttled Performance Center

Backers gave $661,452 on Kickstarter, but it still wasn't enough to build the planned facility in New York.

Don't expect a refund.

What might have been a major institute for performance art is not to be, the art world learned last month, despite a titanic amount of money donated via Kickstarter to build the Marina Abramović Institute in Hudson, New York.

So what happens to the $661,452 the institute raised on Kickstarter to fund its Rem Koolhaas-designed building? Do those 4,765 backers get their money back?

In a word, no. The institute raised the money partly to pay Koolhaas’s firm, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, to develop schematics for the building, including plans for the “building structure, lighting, acoustics, and AV,” as well as to cover the institute’s ongoing programming and office operations, according to the initial fund-raising pitch.

A representative of Kickstarter said that those schematics were “to our knowledge, completed.” Abramović did not return a phone call and the institute declined an interview on her behalf.

The institute’s executive director, Thanos Argyropoulos, said that the Institute held up its end of the deal. “A degree of risk sharing with the community is the only way for organizations of our size to do studies to measure the potential impact and conduct a proper cost and risk analysis of projects involving substantial capital expenditure,” he wrote in an email to artnet News.

Argyropoulos declined to itemize how much of the money went to the schematics and how much to other ends.

The donations came with rewards. They included a hug from the artist for a $1 pledge; a DVD of Abramović demonstrating exercises like water drinking and “eye gazing” for $100; a movie night with the artist for $5,000; and, for $10,000, the highest benchmark, an evening of “spirit cooking” with the artist, at which they would make various soups.

Kickstarter’s terms of use indicate that “When a project is successfully funded, the creator must complete the project and fulfill each reward.” According to Kickstarter, the institute delivered every hug, DVD, and bowl of soup—except a few for which the recipients failed to RSVP on time.

 

Marina Abramovic at her 70th birthday party. Courtesy of Paul Bruinooge © Patrick McMullan.

Marina Abramovic at her 70th birthday party. Courtesy of Paul Bruinooge © Patrick McMullan.

Abramović is a divisive figure, both loved and reviled in equal measure. She was the subject of a blockbuster retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, “Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present,” in 2010, at which she stared into the eyes of museum visitors, sometimes to strong emotional effect. Lady Gaga shot a video in which she practiced the “Abramović Method.” In 2013, at New York’s Pace Gallery, Jay Z shot a video inspired by her MoMA performance.

In a notorious blunder, Abramović complained in a 2015 interview with Spike Art Quarterly that Jay Z had failed to deliver on a substantial promised donation to her institute. The rapper struck back, producing proof of the donation; Abramović blamed the error on her staff.

For her part, as of the time of the Kickstarter, Abramović had ponied up some $1.5 million of her own money to support the development of the institute—more than twice the total funds raised by the Kickstarter campaign. So at least no one can say that Abramović hasn’t put her money where her Kickstarter is.


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