Visitors to Royal Academy exhibition have to squeeze past naked actors just to get in

20 September 2023, 14:56 | Updated: 20 September 2023, 15:54

The Marina Abramovic exhibition starts on Saturday
The Marina Abramovic exhibition starts on Saturday. Picture: Royal Academy

By Kit Heren

Visitors to an exhibition at London's Royal Academy have to squeeze past totally naked performers to get inside.

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The exhibition, by famous performance artist Marina Abramović, features nude actors at the entrance, in a performance called Imponderabilia.

The Royal Academy said the performance was "an intense exploration of human relations".

Imponderabilia was previously performed at the Royal Academy in 2020 and Abramović first came up with it in 1977.

Speaking ahead of the 2020 exhibition, gallery director of exhibitions Andrea Tarsia said: "When it was first performed some people just stood back… they couldn’t quite handle it and weren’t entirely sure of what they were seeing.

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. Picture: Royal Academy
Marina Abramovic
Marina Abramovic. Picture: Getty

"Some went through. Some fairly charged through. A few went through a number of times, actually."

She called the show a "confrontation between nakedness, and the gender, the sexuality, the desire".

The Piccadilly-based gallery says on its website: "Live performance art can be both startling and intimate. For Abramović it also has the power to be transformative."

If people don't want to go through the two nude performers, a bypass route is available as well.

The Royal Academy said that the safety of its performers is paramount, and staff would be watching to make sure no one touched them inappropriately.

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. Picture: Royal Academy
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. Picture: Royal Academy

The 2023 show, which opens on Saturday and runs until New Year's Day, includes several other performances.

Luminosity is a naked woman pinned on the wall in a crucifix pose.

Nude with Skeleton features a nude performer lying on the ground for several hours underneath a skeleton.

Addressing Luminosity, Abramović said: "I call it liquid knowledge. When the body is exhausted you reach a point where the body doesn’t exist anymore.

"Your connection with a universal knowledge is so acute, there is a state of luminosity."

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. Picture: Royal Academy

The show ends with House with the Ocean View, which features three performers only drinking water for 12 days.

Abramović, who was the performer herself when these acts were originally shown, said there would be a doctor, psychologist, and a nutritionist on standby.

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

Reviews have been mixed. The Times called the exhibition "stylishly presented but unsatisfactory". The Telegraph said she had "egregiously lost her way". But the Guardian called it "terrifying and vital".

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