Ulay, "S'he", 1973. IMAGE: Courtesy of Ulay Foundation

“It takes a long time, maybe a lifetime, to understand Ulay,” Marina Abramović once said of Frank Uwe Laysiepen, with whom she shared one of the most famous artistic relationships. Ulay, who died last Monday at age 76, was born in Solingen, Germany, in a bunker from the military period. In 1969, dissatisfied with the bourgeois scene of his native country and having started to study photography, he left Germany for Amsterdam, where he would be hired the following year as a consultant for Polaroid.

Thanks to the equipment provided by the company, Ulay started the series Resnais Sense, which is an exploration of gender identity and differences through photocollage. A pioneer in photography, performance and body art, he gained notoriety during his long-term collaboration with his then-partner Marina Abramovic, which began in 1976. Prior to that, in the same year, Ulay performed the unique performance There Is a Criminal Touch to Art, in which he stole Adolf Hitler's favorite painting from a museum in Berlin, hung it on the wall of an impoverished Turkish immigrant family, and called the police shortly thereafter to come and arrest him.

Until 1988, already with Abramovic, he led the so-called Relationship Works, 14 intensely physical and seminal pieces for performance art. Their last work together was entitled The Lovers, a journey of months supported by both - she departing from the Yellow Sea, he from the Gobi Desert - with a common end in the middle of the Great Wall of China, concomitant in their last goodbye until the old couple met again with a surprise appearance by Ulay during the performance of The Artist is Present, in Abramović's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 2010. The reunion was emotionally pivotal for the artists and the recording of the moment already hits millions of viewers on YouTube.

In November 2020, a major retrospective of his work will be organized at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. His legacy will be maintained by the ULAY Foundation, which opened last year in Ljubljana.

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