Home Magazine 5 Reason for seeing Marina Abramović "The Cleaner"

From 21 September 2018 to 20 January 2019, Palazzo Strozzi will host Italy's first retrospective devoted to the work of Marina Abramović, one of contemporary arts most celebrated and controversial figures. Abramović revolutionised the idea of performance art, testing the limits of her body and its potential for creative expression. 

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Italy was chosen by the artist as an important stop for this major retrospective exhibition, as the country has played a significant role in Abramović’s life and in the development of her art. “The Cleaner” also marks the first exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi devoted to a female artist. Marina Abramović will exhibit throughout the entire venue, interacting with this unique Florentine site across the piano nobile, its famed courtyard and the underground ‘Strozzina’, her work acting as a reminder of the value the Renaissance period placed in the individual. Arturo Galansino - Director General of the Strozzi - said: 

“In the past 50 years Marina Abramovic has made an indelible mark on our collective imagination, she's constantly challenged the space between the artist and the audience, and her relationship with Italy since the 1970s have informed her performance like no other country. The Palazzo Strozzi exhibitions are created specifically for the unique Renaissance context of Florence - and contemporary art plays an essential role within this. I been conscious for some time that the Strozzi had yet to dedicate its entire space to a leading, female artist and this deep-routed connection that Marina Abramovic feels to Italy made her the the obvious choice. The title of the exhibition, "The Cleaner", refers to a reflection by Marina on her own life; according to it, like in a house, you only keep what you need and you clean away your past, your memory, your destiny. What remains after this existential clean-out can be found in a major retrospective that, with more than a hundred works on show, embraces over half a century of activity on the part of one of the most iconic figures in contemporary art, a woman who is considered the matriarch of performance art. " 

Abramović The Kitchen V. Holding the Milk 2009, video (colour, sound), 12:42” min. Amsterdam, LIMA Foundation.
Courtesy of Marina Abramović Archives and LIMA. Special thanks to Galleria Lia Rumma Milano/Napoli.


Marina Abramović/Ulay. Anima Mundi. (Pietà)1983–2002, color print, cm 183 x 183 © MarinaAbramović and Ulay.
Courtesy of Marina Abramović Archives and Galleria Lia Rumma Milano/Napoli



This mesmerising retrospective brings together 100 works by the artist, offering visitors an overview of the most celebrated pieces in her career stretching from the 1960s to the 2000s - with videos, photographs, paintings, objects, installations and re-enactments of her celebrated live performances by a group of artists specially selected and trained for the show.  The exhibition, in which for the first time the artist's voice will accompany the visitors through the innovative audio guide, includes works which were performed in Italy during a period of considerable success for the artist, including her seminal "Rhythm" (1973-5) works and "Imponderabilia" (1977), where the audience was forced to pass between the naked bodies of Abramović and her then partner, German artist Ulay, who were standing either side of a doorway.  The tragedy of the war in Bosnia in the 1990s provided the inspiration for "Balkan Baroque" (1997), which earned Abramović the Leone d'Oro at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and which became a metaphor against all wars. In the performance the artist washes 1,500 ox bones, one by one, in a dark cellar, scraping pieces of flesh and cartilage off the bones while singing traditional Serbian songs. As the artist said, the exhibition title, “The Cleaner”, refers to a specific creative and existential moment, a reflection by the artist on her own life:

"Like in a house, you only keep what you need and you clean away your past, your memory, your destiny.



1. Because it is the first exhibition that Palazzo Strozzi has ever devoted to a female artist, who is also the most important player in the field of performance art. Absolutely unprecedented for Italy in this immersive formula, Marina Abramović "The Cleaner" offers spectators a chance to explore every aspect of the art of Marina Abramović, who with her works and her story – a career 50 years long – will be invading every available space in the Palazzo, from the courtyard and the Strozzina undercroft to the Piano Nobile. 

2. Because the exhibition is a special story relating Marina Abramović's rapport with Italy that has been the venue for some of her most memorable performances*, and those performances will be revisited in the exhibition, highlighting the artist's extremely close bond with the country. 



Marina Abramović. Dragon Heads 2018, 9-channel video installation (color, no sound), 60:00 min. New York, Abramović LLC.
Courtesy of Marina Abramović Archives. Marina Abramović by SIAE 2018


3. Because Marina Abramović is the artist who has marked our contemporary era more deeply than any other. And even though she played her part in the previous century's cultural production, she has successfully ferried her art into the Third Millennium. 

4. Because she is an artist who, in reflecting on her own life, has always shone the spotlight on crucial themes that concern us all, succeeding in communicating with the present more than any other artist, interpreting its contradictions and its inconsistencies, its urgencies and its emergencies. She has proven capable of "spring cleaning", keeping only what is needed and what is crucial. 

5. Because visitors will be able to take part in the first person in the re-performances that will be held in Palazzo Strozzi on a daily basis, plunging first-hand into experiences that will make this exhibition a fully- fledged and unforgettable living experiment. 


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