"We're fine, everything is fine," wrote Arturo Galansino, director of the Palazzo Strozzi gallery where the attack occurred. Along with his statement, he also posted on Facebook a selfie taken together with Marina Abramovic. While both appeared to be calm, the motive behind the attack is still not clear.
One of the most radical figures in performance art, Abramovic is famous for using her body as a tool for self-expression.
The assailant, who is a Czech Republic national, has since been arrested, according to German press agency dpa.
Read more: Encountering an icon: Marina Abramovic
Italian media say the wood-framed painting used in the incident is a portrait of Abramovic that was painted by the attacker. The attack occurred immediately after the artist held a signing for her book, Marina Abramovic Interviews 1976-2018, part of a week of events featuring Abramovic to kick off her retrospective titled "The Cleaner."
As quoted in the Daily Beast, Abramovic told Italian media how the man "came up to me looking into my eyes and I smiled at him thinking he was giving me a gift … 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," she added.
She wants to ask the man why he did it, according to Galansino.
The alleged attacker is previously known for his own kind of spontaneous public performance art, with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera noting that he has twice been seen nude in public in Florence, once lying on fake dollar bills.
From September 21, 2018 to January 20, 2019 Palazzo Strozzi hosts a major Abramovic retrospective that brings together more than a hundred works from the 1970s to the 2000s, including videos, photographs, paintings, objects, installations, and live recreations of her infamous performances.
sb/eg (AP, dpa)