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Francesco Vezzoli Examines the Role of the Dalí in Today's Celebrity-Obsessed Society at Moderna Museet

STOCKHOLM.- In his desire to merge art with the person, Salvador Dalí was a forerunner for today’s close connection between artists and the media industry; a prototype for the celebrity artist.

In Francesco Vezzoli’s work - a unique blend of hype and melancholy, queer culture and politics, glamour and tears - the presence of dalinian influences is a matter of course.

Dalí Dalí featuring Francesco Vezzoli examines the role of the artist in today’s celebrity-obsessed society, and of these two artists’ disingenuous relationship with mass media and power.

Salvador Dalí was an influential predecessor to the pop artists of the 1960’s – or could perhaps rather be seen as the missing link between Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp – in exploiting his artistic persona, and adopting every commercial tool in this endeavour, from designing jewellery to working the mass media as a stage for performance. Francesco Vezzoli, not only appropriates the device, but takes it to its 21st century extreme, modelling his work on full blown mass cultural formats such as the Hollywood biopic. He is the ideal and palpable co-star in an exhibition striving to view Dalí’s oeuvre from a contemporary angle, and to challenge the concept of a historical exhibition.

In Dalí Dalí featuring Francesco Vezzoli the audience will meet fifteen of Salvador Dalí’s 1930’s masterpieces and forty-two prints, presented in a seemingly traditional 20th century museum context. From this room three doors – of which one is locked – lead to a second section in which dramatically lit passages present Dalí’s expansions into popular genres as tableaux displays; a vast collection of works in the pop culture genre of the era is presented alongside photographs, films and paraphernalia surrounding Dalí’s person.

The exhibition design refers to Louis Aragon and Walter Benjamin’s views on city life’s heterogeneous influence on how needs and desires clash and co-operate in the human mind. The semantics of personality, money, media and fame; and not least of art itself, are at stake in this major presentation of one of the most important figures of the 20th century opposed to one of the most significant artists of the younger generations.

Salvador Dalí’s fascination for the sublime and the banal is shared by Francesco Vezzoli, and the artists are united at the crucial point where this supposed dichotomy, in fact merges into one. Dalí Dalí featuring Francesco Vezzoli features the first thematic retrospective of Francesco Vezzoli’s work, curated by Caroline Corbetta, that highlights the long-standing presence of dalinian influences in the work of the controversial Italian artist: from Surrealist imagery to self-promotional strategies.

The retrospective display is a theatrical scenery that stages, and reinterprets, about thirty artworks – embroideries, tapestries, posters and videos – produced by Francesco Vezzoli over the last decade. The works form a brand new installation that draws a dashing map of the many cultural references that Vezzoli’s work embodies. A fil rouge spins from Salvador Dalí and stretches to Andy Warhol as well as Marcel Duchamp, Pier Paolo Pasolini and other cultural icons whose thinking and behaviour have prolifically merged into Vezzoli’s practice.

In videos such as Marlene Redux: A True Hollywood Story! (2006) and Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s “Caligula” (2005), Vezzoli has incorporated various formats of mass media; such as the behind-the-scenes exposé and the political advertisement, and populated them with an extraordinary cast of actors, among them Milla Jovovich and Sharon Stone. Through Vezzoli’s exploitation of, as well as homage to, these and other celebrities he has established himself as a master parodist of our media-saturated culture.

The culmination of this surreal retrospective of Vezzoli’s works will be the presentation of a new, especially realised art piece, entitled Portrait to HRH The Princess of Hanover as Queen Christina of Sweden (Before & After Salvador Dali). Conceived as a continuation and a summary of the themes explored in his previous works, this new project is meant to be both homage to the most iconic living figure of European aristocracy and to the history of Sweden: a double photographic portrait of Caroline, Princess of Hanover, Hereditary Princess of Monaco, immortalized as Queen Christina of Sweden, the historical figure brought to the silver screen by Swedish star actress Greta Garbo. This work is also a reference to Dalí’s renowned predilection for the art of portraiture of noted personalities posing as historical figures (for example, British actor Lawrence Olivier as Richard III) and a celebration of Queen Christina, whose open-minded habits, unconventional behaviour and passion for the arts made her one of the most complex and intriguing characters of European history.

The theoretical ideas behind the exhibition will be discussed in an international two-day critical symposium in November 2009 at the Moderna Museet.

Curator: John Peter Nilsson
Project curator Francesco Vezzoli: Caroline Corbetta

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