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Marina celebrates her way

“James Franco is one of the most interesting figures,” Marina Abramovic told New York magazine in 2013, “because he has no rules.” Attendees at the artist’s 70th birthday celebrations at the Guggenheim Museum on 8 December, on the other hand, were given a card at the door with firm directions to don the noise-cancelling headphones provided and “refrain from verbal communication” for the first 70 minutes of the party. “I have decided to make my age my friend,” she said in a speech, just after banging a gong and just before the English singer Anohni performed a stirring rendition of My Way. Marina’s other friends took the rules in stride. David Copperfield could be seen in the front row absorbing videos of the artist’s past performances with gold leaf on his lips. The two met this year, when she’d come to see the magician in Las Vegas. “When the viewing public sees what you’re doing, if you really believe what you’re doing, and you have the confidence, it’s amazing how much it resonates,” he marvelled, of both of them. It’s easy to write it all off as feel-good self-aggrandisement, but as waiting staff distributed champagne and sourdough bread, Monica Lewinsky—who met Abramovic when they were doing TED talks around the same time—reminded some partygoers that Abramovic’s work has done much for feminism, for its exploration of society’s relationship to the body. And it’s hard to be left cold by most of it. “I felt Marina’s energy was here,” she said. “I felt as if she pulled us all into the experience of those 70 years. I teared up.” Asked if she kept to the vow of silence, though, Lewinsky rolled her eyes. “No.”