Performance art diva Marina Abramović had caused hoopla with her vaguely kinky, “economically exploitative” gala at MoCA for allegedly underpaying artists to hug skeletons naked and poke their heads through tables. Now, some of the “re-performers” from MoMA talk about their wage troubles with museum institutions.
Apparently, the pay was quite low and workers’ comp took fighting for… Now, let’s not get tabloid-y. We love museums. MoMA’s neat. Those involved with Abramović’s epic retrospective/exhibit and were re-performing the respected artist’s classic pieces upstairs — hanging off said walls, forming nude human doorways, metaphysically bonding with bones/mortality — found the experience challenging, transforming, rewarding, etc etc, and just collaborating with the world’s most successful living performance artist can be considered the sweetest artist internship ever, yet…
Three re-performers write:
Leading up to the Abramović retrospective in 2010, the 39 “reperformers” engaged in a series of successful negotiations with the MoMA for better wages and working conditions. The initial offer we received from the museum struck many of us as untenable: $50 for a 2 1/2 hour performance shift, no compensation for prep time or time in between shifts, and, most troublingly, no workman’s compensation, which would cover us in the case of injury. Through a first round of negotiations, we achieved a modest pay increase and a change of status to “temporary employee,” which provided us workman’s compensation and some other benefits. However, we were only able to approach a fair wage for our work after two fainting performers made evident the difficulty and risk of our work. Still, we were not paid enough to avoid working other jobs during the run of the exhibit.
Considering MoMA’s operating 2008-2009 budget of $160 million, Abramović’s devout preaching of her performance art copyright ownership, the $22 ticket price and the Abramović blockbuster exhibit’s 750,000 attendees… Jeez. Awkward.