Artist sues MoMA: A case of boundaries crossed in performance art

Artist sues MoMA: A case of boundaries crossed in performance art

Artist sues MoMA: A case of boundaries crossed in performance art
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10:52 AM EST, January 25, 2024

In a notable legal turn of events, performer John Bonafede, who was part of Marina Abramović's renowned 2010 MoMA exhibit, "The Artist is Present," is suing the museum. He contends that the Museum of Modern Art did not adequately prevent several instances of sexual assault that he experienced during his performance. Specifically, Bonafede recounted seven incidents of assault that occurred while he was part of "Imponderabilia," a performance art piece featuring two naked performers standing in a narrow passageway through which attendees could walk.

The suit claims that Bonafede was assaulted by several older visitors who groped him as they passed through the doorway. This interaction was intrinsic to the performance, where the public had to choose which performer to face while squeezing through the space. The lawsuit also alleges that MoMA knew of ongoing sexual assaults against many of its worker performers but failed to take corrective action. Bonafede is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, including reimbursement of attorney fees, emphasizing the emotional distress and harm to his mental health and career caused by these incidents​.

The outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for how art institutions manage and supervise performances that involve close physical interaction between performers and the public. It underscores the need for clear guidelines and protective measures to safeguard the rights and well-being of artists in interactive art settings.

The future of performance Art

 As the case progresses, its outcome may set a precedent for how museums and galleries handle interactive and performance art. It emphasizes the need for institutions to be vigilant in their duty of care, balancing artistic freedom with ethical responsibility. The lawsuit could lead to more stringent policies and practices regarding performer safety in art installations, redefining the boundaries of audience interaction in the world of performance art. This case, therefore, stands at the crossroads of art, law, and ethics, potentially reshaping the landscape of contemporary art exhibitions and performances.

Source: The New York Times

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