Not for the prudish! Visitors to Royal Academy of Arts will squeeze between nude performers at exhibition which includes a naked woman pinned in a crucifix pose and three women sitting for 24 hours a day over 12 days drinking only water

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Visitors at the Royal Academy of Arts’ next exhibition, which includes a naked woman pinned in a crucifix pose, will have to squeeze past a nude man and woman in order to get to it. 

The exhibition, which opens this weekend, is curated by controversial artist Marina Abramović – who previously invited visitors to slash her throat and scooped fake blood from a naked woman’s body with Lady Gaga.

The 76-year-old’s previous work includes ‘Rhythm 0’ where she placed 72 objects including a bullet, gun, scalpel and metal bar on a table and invited visitors to interact with her however they wished – resulting in a loaded gun being held to her head.

In 2010 Abramović appeared at New York’s Museum Of Modern Art with The Artist Is Present, in which she sat in silence for three months with visitors invited to gaze into her eyes.

And in 2011, she sparked a fevered backlash when she and co-curator Debbie Harry of Blondie fame carved up two life-size nude statues of themselves with a knife and machete.

Another of Belgrade-born Abramović’s works is The House with the Ocean View, where she lived in a house within a gallery and spectators were invited to watch her for 12 days. This will be recreated as part of the exhibition with three women occupying separate open platforms on the gallery wall, for 24 hours a day over 12 days, without talking and drinking only water. 

The Times branded the exhibition a ‘remorseless show’ and ‘a sad spool of self-harm and suffocation’, while The Telegraph suggested the artist had ‘egregiously lost her way’.

Visitors who want to see the Royal Academy of Arts' next exhibition will have to squeeze past two naked people in order to get to it

Visitors who want to see the Royal Academy of Arts’ next exhibition will have to squeeze past two naked people in order to get to it

The performance where a naked man and woman will be stood in the entrance is called Imponderabilia and is part of the Marina Abramović exhibition

The performance where a naked man and woman will be stood in the entrance is called Imponderabilia and is part of the Marina Abramović exhibition

Marina Abramović, pictured with Lady Gaga in 2013 when she scooped fake blood from a naked woman's body

Marina Abramović, pictured with Lady Gaga in 2013 when she scooped fake blood from a naked woman’s body 

Serbian artist Marina Abramović once had a loaded gun held to her head by a member of the public during one of performances

Serbian artist Marina Abramović once had a loaded gun held to her head by a member of the public during one of performances 

Other performances in the exhibition include Luminosity – in which a naked woman is pinned on the wall in a crucifix pose – and Nude with Skeleton, where a naked performance artist will lay on the ground for hours with a skeleton on top of them. 

READ MORE:  Performance artist bans mobiles: Visitors forced to leave devices in lockers and ‘experience things first-hand’ 

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Reviewer for The Times, Laura Freeman, dubbed the Luminosity performance the ‘climax of a show’ which ‘felt like a TikTok spool of self-harm and suffocation challenges’. 

‘Cutting, starving, hitting, lips sewn shut, prescription medicine misused, games of Russian roulette,’ she added. 

Abramović has assured the academy there will be safety precautions in place for the 42 ‘re-performer’ in the exhibition – many of whom are graduates trained in her method at her institute in New York.

She told The Observer: ‘For that, we have a doctor, we have a psychologist, we have a psychologist, we have a nutritionist standing by.

‘All the stuff I never had when I did it. But they are great performers, people that I trust.’

During her performance of Rhythm 0, Abramović had her throat slashed, her clothes cut from her body with razor blades, and a loaded gun put to her head. The performance ended when a fight broke out between visitors.

At the time, Abramović said: ‘What I learned was that … if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you … I felt really violated.’

The entrance forces a 'confrontation between nakedness, and the gender, the sexuality, the desire'

The entrance forces a ‘confrontation between nakedness, and the gender, the sexuality, the desire’

The exhibition celebrates the key moments from Marina Abramović's 50-year career as a performance artist through sculpture, video, installation and performance

The exhibition celebrates the key moments from Marina Abramović’s 50-year career as a performance artist through sculpture, video, installation and performance

The exhibition, which opens this weekend, is curated by controversial artist Marina Abramović (pictured) who previously invited visitors to slash her throat

The exhibition, which opens this weekend, is curated by controversial artist Marina Abramović (pictured) who previously invited visitors to slash her throat

Lady Gaga and Marina Abramović at the 20th annual benefit for the Watermill Center in New York in 2013

Lady Gaga and Marina Abramović at the 20th annual benefit for the Watermill Center in New York in 2013

Debbie Harry and Marina Abramović butchered a model of the singer in the name of creativity in 2011

Debbie Harry and Marina Abramović butchered a model of the singer in the name of creativity in 2011

The Guardian’s Adrian Searle dubbed the exhibition ‘relentless’. 

He added: ‘Redoubtable, indefatigable, brave and extreme, Abramović is an artist you’d want on your side in a battle. She terrifies me, and who knows what she’d do to the enemy.’

READ MORE: ‘They look terrible… they are like dinosaurs’: Outrage over world-famous performance artist Marina Abramovic’s ‘racist’ description of Aborigines in her memoir 

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On it’s website the academy states: ‘Live performance art can be both startling and intimate. For Abramović it also has the power to be transformative.’

The performance where a naked man and woman will be stood obstructing the entrance is called Imponderabilia and forces a ‘confrontation between nakedness, and the gender, the sexuality, the desire,’ said Andrea Tarsia, the Royal Academy’s head of exhibitions.

At a 2011 exhibition with Debbie Harry at the Museum Of Contemporary Art Gala, Abramović faced a furious backlash.

Audience members chanted: ‘Violence Against Women! Violence Against Women!’ in protest to the simulated violence, with one describing the event as ‘controversial and unnecessary’.

As the show continued a group of shirtless men armed with meat cleavers joined her on stage and began chopping up the two bodies. The dismembered bodies were made of cake that was then served up as dessert and given to guests.

In 2014 Abramović banned visitors to her show at London’s Serpentine Gallery from bringing phones, cameras or computers in a bid to force people to live in the moment.

In 2016 Abramović, who also starred in the documentary The Artist Is Present, sparked controversy after an excerpt from her memoir ‘Walk Through Walls’ was posted online.

The art show with American singer Debbie Harry and Marina Abramović was dubbed 'controversial and unnecessary'

The art show with American singer Debbie Harry and Marina Abramović was dubbed ‘controversial and unnecessary’

‘Aborigines are not just the oldest race in Australia; they are the oldest race on the planet. They look like dinosaurs,’ the passage read.

‘They are really strange and different, and they should be treated as living treasures. Yet, they are not.’

The artist added: ‘To Western eyes they look terrible. Their faces are like no other faces on earth; they have big torsos (just one bad result of their encounter with Western civilisation is a high-sugar diet that bloats their bodies) and sticklike legs.’

For those who don’t want to squeeze through the gap between the nude performers, there’s a separate entrance. 

The Royal Academy of Arts said the safety and welfare of performers was its top priority and gallery staff will be on standby to protect them from any unwanted touching or inappropriate behaviour.  

Abramović is the first female artist in the academy’s 255-year history to perform in the main galleries. 

The exhibition starts on Saturday and will run until January 1, 2024. 

Tickets cost between £25.50 and £27.50 and are available from the Royal Academy of Art’s website.

Under-16s must be accompanied by an adult ticket holder for the event. Organisers will be undertaking ID checks at the door and any photography or filming of the live performances is banned.




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