Lady Gaga's Opening VMA Performance Was 'So Unexpected'

Performance artist Marina Abramović says Gaga's passion came through in Sunday night's art-inspired opening act.

From the way she, literally, used her face as a canvas to a shout out to conceptual artist Jeff Koons' gazing balls, Lady Gaga filled her performance at Sunday night's 2013 MTV Video Music Awards with multiple nods to her ARTPOP collaborators and inspirations.

With a set and lighting fashioned by famed playwright and stage design artist Robert Wilson, Gaga's tour de force opening act took her through a whirlwind of costume changes and moods. The visual spectacle made quite an impression on one of Gaga's art world mentors, performance art legend Marina Abramović, expected from her charge.

"Lady Gaga is a force," said Abramović, who spent time in her upstate New York studio space last month with Gaga filming videos in support of her Marina Abramović Institute. "In our workshop together I witnessed her tenacity, her passion, her discipline and her impulse to take risks. I saw all of those same qualities in her performance last night. She challenged herself technically and pushed her limits physically. Her performance was so unexpected! This is what I like."

Abramović was also impressed with how Gaga moved in the space created by Wilson, which included a kind of shimmering forest with the letters of her single, "Applause," hanging from tree branches.

"I admire her desire to collaborate with visual artists to bring a unique vision to her new album ARTPOP," Abramović wrote to MTV News in an exclusive email review of Gaga's performance sent from Oslo, Norway.

Abramović wasn't the only one who was blown away by Gaga's fierce display. In one of the most widely circulated post-show photos, Will Smith and his family were caught going slack-jawed at the spectacle as well.