Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present by RoseLee Goldberg
Christian Jankowski, Rooftop Routine, 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court.
Ragnar Kjartansson, Bliss, 2011. Photo Paula Court
Liz Glynn, 2011. Photo Elizabeth Proitsis


Performa is a multidisciplinary non-profit arts organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art and to encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century. Part of Performa’s mission is to present a biennial of visual art performance in New York City that illuminates the critical role of performance in the history of art as well as its enormous significance in the international world of contemporary art.

Performa’s Objectives are:

  • -Commission new performance projects in visual arts
  • -Present a dedicated performance biennial
  • -Consult and collaborate with art institutions and performing art presenters around the world to create dynamic and historically significant performance programs
  • -Through the Performa Institute, offer an ongoing educational platform for expanding the knowledge and understanding of this critical area of visual art and cultural history.


Performa is the brainchild of art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, whose definitive book, Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present (1979 & 2000), pioneered the study of performance art and has been translated into eleven languages. Ms. Goldberg’s writing, as well as her activities as curator at The Kitchen in the late 1970s, has shaped the public’s view of live performance as a visual art form for almost thirty years.  In 2001, Ms. Goldberg originated and produced visual artist Shirin Neshat’s first live performance, Logic of the Birds, with critical and popular success in both New York and London. The idea to create the Performa biennial, with a specially commissioned new performance at its core, evolved from this highly successful production. Ms Goldberg is Founding Director and Curator of Performa, which was founded in 2004. Read more here.

Mike Kelley, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #32, Plus, a Performa Commission. 2009. Photo by Paula Court, courtesy of Performa.


Since launching New York’s first performance biennial, Performa 05, in 2005, the organization has solidified its identity as a commissioning and producing entity. As a “museum without walls,” Performa contributes important art historical heft to the field by showing the development of live art in all its forms from many different cultural perspectives, reaching back to the Renaissance. Celebrated worldwide as the first biennial to give special attention to this remarkable history, the Performa Biennial transforms the city of New York into the “world capital of artists’ performance” every other November, attracting a national and international audience of more than 200,000 and garnering more than five million website hits during its three-week run. In the last decade, Performa has presented nearly 600 performances, worked with more than 700 artists, and toured commissioned performances in nearly 20 countries around the world. Learn more here.

Curator Adrienne Edwards in conversation with Wangechi Mutu. Performa 17. Photo © Paula Court.


Performa Institute is a year-round think tank that includes public programs, an annual conference, online and print publications, international curatorial network program, and a repository of performance scholarship and documentation. Performa Institute initiatives provide important contributions to the field of contemporary art through the development of scholarship about performance and the role of this work in shaping the history of 20th and 21st-century art. For more information.


Performa Magazine is a unique online magazine dedicated to contemporary performance across disciplines. A lively source for both historical and contemporary material, it features documentation, short essays, interviews, video, and audio exploring the Performa biennial and beyond. Click here to read the articles!