The centerpiece of the biennial are the Performa Commissions, where visual artists take a step into the world of performance, many of them for the first time in their careers.

These artists receive significant financial and production support to experiment and realize innovative works, in close collaboration with Performa’s curatorial and production teams from conceptualization to presentation. To date, Performa has awarded over 50 Commissions with several consequently touring internationally after their New York premieres.

Beginning with the first Performa 05 Commissions by artists Jesper Just and Francis Alÿs, Performa has gone on to present Commissions by a wide range of artists including Isaac Julien (Performa 07); Adam Pendleton (Performa 07); Yvonne Rainer (Performa 07); Francesco Vezzoli (Performa 07); Mike Kelley (Performa 09); Arto Lindsay (Performa 09); Wangechi Mutu (Performa 09); Ragnar Kjartansson (Performa 11); Liz Magic Laser (Performa 11); Shirin Neshat (Performa 11); Elmgreen and Dragset (Performa 11); Raqs Media Collective (Performa 13), Rashid Johnson (Performa 13); Rosa Barba (Performa 13); and Alex Singh (Performa 13), among many others.

Performa Commissions are supported by grants from Toby Devan Lewis, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Ford Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

Image credit: Edgar Arceneaux, Until, Until, Until..., 2015; courtesy of the artist. Jérôme Bel, Gala, 2015; photo by Véronique Ellena, courtesy of the artist. Pauline Curnier Jardin, The Lady Weather Speakerine in Keys To Our Heart still, 2012; courtesy of the artist and PSM Gallery, Berlin. Ryan Gander, Earnest Hawker audition documentation, 2015; photo by Ryan Gander, courtesy of the artist. Agatha Gothe-Snape, Rhetorical Chorus (LW), 2015; image courtesy of the artist. Juliana Huxtable, There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed, 2015; courtesy of the artist. Athanasius Kircher, Speaking tubes connected to statues from Musurgia universalis, vol. 2, p. 303, 1650; courtesy of Stanford University. Wyatt Kahn, Father Time detail, 2014; courtesy of the artist. Laura Lima, Galinhas de Gala, 2004-2011; photo by Cadu d'Oliveira, courtesy of the artist. Oscar Murillo, Mighty White, 2015; courtesy of the artist. Robin Rhode, Piano Chair still, 2011; courtesy of Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York. Francesco Vezzoli and David Hallberg, Fortuna Desperata 2015, A Performa Commission; photo by Francesco Vezzoli, courtesy of L'Uomo Vogue, Conde Nast Italia. Erika Vogt, Artist Theater Program, 2014, featuring Adam Putnam, Flora Wiegmann, and Shannon Ebner and artwork by MPA, Erika Vogt, Silke Otto-Knapp, Flora Wiegmann, and Shannon Ebner; photo by Ryan Jenkins, courtesy of the artist and Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York. Sun Sing Theater, The Dragon's Revenge, Life Magazine May 1, 1950; photo by Jerry Cooke, courtesy of The Jerry Cooke Archives, Inc. and Time, Inc.