Dear Shaded Viewers,
I just came back from a whirlwind trip to Shanghai for the closing of ‘The Artist is Present by Maurizio Cattelan powered by Alessandro Michele GUCCI. I have to admit prior to my visit to the exhibition I had rather negative thoughts about copies and the current acceptance for appropriation but after both reading the incredibly amusing New Work Times with fake stories about counterfeiting, repetition and clones and visiting the exhibition…I see the act of copying in a different light. The exhibition is a celebration of imitations, repetitions and how there is no difference in the way different artists or choreographers interpret classics, and the copy of an artwork and in fact it is a process that increases the power of the original. If you had not seen so many copies of the Mona Lisa, for example, maybe the small sized original behind glass at the Louvre would not have quite the same impact. If you have not been able to venture to the Vatican …the Vatican comes to you and you can take your time in the Sistine Chapel and…you can take photos.
More than 30 international artists were commissioned to make works of art and the title, which you are already familiar with, comes from Marina Abramovic’s ‘The Artist is Present’ show from 2010. The 30 artists included Wim Delvoye, Andy Hung Chi-Kin, Kapwani Kiwanga, Superflex, XU ZHEN®, Sturtevant, Lawrence Weiner, Louise Lawler, Margaret Lee, Brian Belott, Josh Kline, Jamian Juliano-Villani, and Reena Spaulings, among others. Throughout the exhibition you will notice that there is no product or branding aside from one Gucci bag made out of LEGO bricks by Andy Hung Chi-Kin it was called the Gucci Sylvie bag . The bag is in the “gift shop” along with other reproductions of Cattelan’s work..
The first room you enter is flashy pink by Kapwani Kiwanga, the color is said to have a calming effect and was used on the walls of a prison holding room, from the pink you pass through a blue lit room which was a copy of bathroom lighting in clubs, the colour was used to make it hard for people to see their veins hence not the best place to shoot up. One room was in Gucci red while another room with a tire made out of bronze was in a signature green walled room. There is a recreation of the actual bathrooms in the Council of the European Union in Brussels, power toilets by SUPERFLEX in close collaboration with NEZU AYMO architects.
XU ZHEN Eternity-Northern Qi golden and painted Buddha, Tany Dynasty torso of standing Buddha from Quyang city, Northern Qi painted Bodhisattva compared eastern sculptures traditionally made from wood with western sculptures traditionally made from marble. There is a Cindy Sherman imitator and I particularly liked the room with the gold speech bubbles by Philippe Parreno on the ceiling and Jose Davila’s cardboard boxes, a tribute to Donald Judd and his 24 bottle caps. Then there were the white and black marble surf boards by Reena Spaulings clearly non-functional.
The one room I had a bit of difficulty with was Wim Delvoye, Cloaca No 5 installation which had a massive industrial machine following the digestive process and producing shit… I could not get out of that room quick enough. Ragnar Kjartansson from Reykjjavik, Iceland had a Chinese singer performing and as the velvet curtains opened she was sitting on a chair singing ‘My great, great, great, grandmother’s song (for China) in Icelandic. The ultimate room was the recreation of the Sistine Chapel which took 6 months to construct. Alessandro Michele worked side by side with Cattelan and gave him two words: Shanghai and copies and within that frame, he had total freedom. The Artist is Present questions what copying can be if we disregard our negative inclinations and see it from a much different perspective.
If you can, and I’m not sure if you can, try to get a hold of the New Work Times it is a terribly amusing read.