Marina Abramović Was Assaulted With a Painting of Herself

Marina Abramovic. Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Marina Abramović, the much-lauded performance artist, was leaving a book signing in Florence on Sunday when a stranger ran up and hit her over the head with a portrait he had made of her.

According to the The New York Times, the attack, which took place at the Palazzo Strozzi, was carried out by Vaclav Pisvejc, a Czech-born aspiring artist who has a history of pulling stunts in gallery settings—one image shows him lying nude on a pile of money scattered on a public sidewalk, brandishing an oil painting.

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Abramović did not press charges against Pisvejc and said in a statement that she was not injured, but she was rattled nonetheless. “He came forward, staring me straight in the eyes, and I smiled thinking that it was a present for me,” she told the Times. “In a fraction of a second I saw his expression change and become violent. You know, danger always comes very quickly, like death.” He then smacked the framed portrait, which was not shielded in glass, over her head and said, “Boom.”

Her own artistic pursuits often hew toward the unconventional, but it’s alarming that Abramović was assaulted by a person who was then afforded the chance to validate his actions on the grounds of creative expression. Abramović said that when she asked Pisvejc why he’d hit her, he replied: “I had to do it for my art.” 

She responded that she had never been violent with her work. “I was also a young, not famous artist, but I never hurt anyone,” Abramović said, adding, “In the past, I would have been angered by something like this; today I feel compassion.”

Marina Abramović Was Assaulted With a Painting of Herself