Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic said Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had “invited” her to become an ambassador for rebuilding schools in the war-hit country.
Ms. Abramovic, a 76-year-old born in Yugoslavia, said in an interview with the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai that she was “the first artist to support the Ukraine war against Russia and to give my voice.”
“I have been invited by Zelensky to be an ambassador of Ukraine, to help the children affected by rebuilding schools and such,” Ms. Abramovic said in the interview, the Telegraph reported on Sept. 22.
“I have also been invited to be a board member of the Babyn Yar organization to continue to protect the memorial,” she added, referring to a holocaust memorial center dedicated to Jews murdered by Nazis in Ukraine.
Ms. Abramovic is known for her performances “characterized by endurance and pain” according to her profile on art21.org, along with “universal themes of life and death are recurring motifs, often enhanced by the use of symbolic visual elements or props such as crystals, bones, knives, tables, and pentagrams.”
In 2021, she installed “The Crystal Wall of Crying,” a stand-alone thick wall made of coal with large quartz crystals sticking out of it, in Kyiv to remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
She described the artwork as a “wall for healing,” which was a symbolic extension of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
“You come here and you look that this is a park. There are so many trees, so much nature, it is so much life. You know, people come here to sit in the sun, little children are playing, but all of this, you know, is one part of reality,” she said.
“But another part of reality – you know that something terrible, terrible happened at the same time. And that kind of memory can’t leave you. So you have this mix of feeling beauty and heaviness and past which is there all the time.”
Ms. Abramovic became the first woman to have a solo retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in the United Kingdom, running from Sept. 23, 2023, to Jan. 1, 2024. BBC reported that visitors will enter the exhibition by passing between two nude models.
Born in Belgrade in 1946, Ms. Abramovic studied fine arts in her hometown and Zagreb before she moved to Amsterdam in 1976. Her performances include the 1988 “The Great Wall Walk,” in which she and German artist Ulay walked from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China before meeting in an embrace.
At the 2010 retrospective of her work held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Ms. Abramovic performed her “The Artist is Present,” in which she spent 716 hours sitting still while thousands of museumgoers took turns sitting in front of her and sharing one another’s gaze.