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Performance Artist Marina Abramović Was Attacked With a Portrait of Herself at a Retrospective

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Performance artist Marina Abramović was hit over the head with her own work this weekend, and not in the figurative sense.

Abramović, who is known for provocative use of the human body, including her own, was attacked in Florence, Italy on Sunday, German media Deutsche Welle reports. She was holding a signing for her book, Marina Abramovic Interviews 1976-2018, as part of a retrospective when the assailant approached.

“In a split second I saw his facial expression change and he became violent, coming toward me very quickly and with force. These dangers arrive quickly, just like death,” Abramović told Italian media, according to Deutsche Welle.

Abramović was then struck over the head with a wood-framed painting of herself.

The suspected attacker, a Czech national, was arrested. He was later identified by Italian media and the gallery as Vaclav Pisvejc, an aspiring performance artist who has previously staged disruptive incidents including public nudity and vandalism, the New York Times reports.

The attack on Sunday may have been part of such an act. In a statement following the incident, Abramović said that when she demanded an explanation from the assailant, he replied, “I had to do it for my art,” according to the Times

Arturo Galansino, the Palazzo Strozzi’s director, expressed “deep regret” about the incident but said in an Instagram post that Abramobić was “well and has not suffered any physical harm.”

The Serbian-born Abramović is known for controversial and even confrontational performance art that often incorporates viewers or inflicts physical pain on the performer. In her 2010 retrospective “The Artist is Present, Abramobić sat in a chair at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and stared at strangers who sat opposite her for 736 hours and 30 minutes.

Read more: Marina Abramovic | TIME 100 2014

But in a statement, Abramović took umbrage at her attacker’s motives. “You don’t make art through violence against others,” she said. “I was also a young, not famous artist, but I never hurt anyone.”

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Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com