In 2013 Francesco Vezzoli, internationally recognized as one of the most celebrated Italian artists of his generation, is being showcased in three solo shows at MAXXI
in Rome, MoMA PS1 in New York and MOCA in Los Angeles. The three independent exhibitions each form part of the unprecedented project The Trinity, born as a joint venture between three prestigious international institutions, exploring the diverse and fundamental aspects of the artist's work and development.
The Trinity begins at MAXXI in Rome where, from 29 May through 24 November 2013, the museum hosts Galleria Vezzoli, the first Italian retrospective devoted to the artist, curated by Anna Mattirolo, director of MAXXI Arte.
MAXXI has to consolidate and continue to reinforce its international ventures, says Giovanna Melandri, president of the Fondazione MAXXI. This is one of our new objectives. In terms of research and the production and circulation of exhibitions and projects in support of young artists, architects and creative figures today. A full-scale working team has been assembled around Francesco Vezzoli that has involved a number of institutions and I am delighted that the project gets underway at MAXXI in Italy."
The exhibition features over 90 works, some exhibited for the first time, delineating Vezzoli's artistic career from the first embroideries in 1995 to the tapestries, the photographs and the more recent videos, to Vezzolis recent marble sculptures, focused on an investigation of the self-portrait that references the collection of the museums of the past.
The title of the exhibition is itself inspired, with a degree of levity and irony, by Romes great galleries, suggesting the atmosphere of 19th Century museums and reflecting on the role of the contemporary museum, a theme close to both the artist and the curator.
In line with Vezzolis determination not to be subjected to, but to choose or to create the exhibition space, Galleries 2 and 3 have been completely transformed. Red damask, wood panelling, stuccowork, niches and classical-style sculptures reconfigure the futuristic spaces designed by Zaha Hadid to create, in a kind of impertinent violation, a museum within a museum.
In his own way, Vezzoli interprets a theme which is central for us today, the role of the museum, says Anna Mattirolo, and he does so through the most classical modes of presentation: galleries of self-portraits, tapestries and sculptures. Parodying a traditional 19th Century museum, the artist invites us to think about the function of the museum today, precariously balanced between the museum as temple and the throwaway museum: a reflection on the world of contemporary art and the star system that revolves around it and which it is now difficult to avoid.
THE EXHIBITION LAYOUT
Multiple cultural references traverse Francesco Vezzolis work, beginning with the first embroidered pieces, an intimate and private technique developed during his training in London which he uses to reproduce abstract paintings from the Bauhaus, such as Homages to the Square (Homage to Joseph Alberss Homage to the Square Fade to Grey to Green) or Mark Rothko in Conversation Piece, both from 1995.
For years Vezzoli has worked with the theme of fame, stripping bare its mechanisms and the media and communications phenomena that determine it. Through the collaboration of international film and TV stars, he has created videos and performances including: Valentina Cortese, Franca Valeri and Iva Zanicchi (Trilogia del Ricamo/ Embroidery Trilogy, 1997-99), Helmut Berger in a rereading of an episode from the American soap opera Dynasty (The Kiss, 2000), Helen Mirren, Milla Yovovich and Courtney Love, among others (Trailer per un Rifacimento di Caligola di Gore Vidal / Trailer for a remake of Gore Vidals Caligula, 2005), Sharon Stone and Bernard-Henri Lévy (Democrazy, 2007), Eva Mendes in a rereading of La Dolce Vita (Jeu de Paume, je taime! Advertisement for an Exhibition That Will Never Open, 2009) and Lady Gaga (Ballets Russes Italian Style The Shortest Musical You Will Never See Again, 2009).
The major installation La Trilogia della Morte/ The Trilogy of Death belongs to the same strand and is composed of three works: Comizi di Non-Amore/ Speeches of Non-Love, 120 Sedute di Sodoma/ 120 Sittings of Sodoma and La Fine di Edipo Re/ The End of Oedipus Rex. Presented at the Fondazione Prada in 2004 and exhibited in Paris in 2008 at the Grand Palais, the installation was born out of reflection on the thinking of Pier Paolo Pasolini.
A section of the exhibition is devoted to self-portraits and includes Self Portrait with Vera Lehndorff as Veruschka (2001), the photos from the series Francesco by FrancescoFrancesco Vezzoli as Jean Cocteau (2002) and Greed (2010), in which the artist portrays himself on the label of a bottle of non-existent perfume. (2002), made with the fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo,
Vezzolis self-portraits find an eternal dimension in his latest works, marble sculptures from 2011 and 2012 that depict the artist in the guise of a satyr, a toga-clad Roman and an emperor, marking a turning-point in his output from Hollywood to the Louvre as he has said. The world of film and television, which has obsessed the artists creative imagination for many years, now gives way to a revisitation of the masterpieces of antiquity. As in Satire of a Satyr from 2011 and Antique Not Antique: Self Portrait as a Crying Roman Togatus from 2012.
Galleria Vezzoli will be followed in the autumn by The Church of Vezzoli at MoMA PS1 in New York, curated by Klaus Biesenbach: a deconsecrated church from the 19th Century originally built in the south of Italy, disassembled and rebuilt in the courtyard of MoMA PS1. Then, in late autumn, MOCA in Los Angeles will see Cinema Vezzoli, curated by Alma Ruiz, in which the artist, drawing on classic European film and the Hollywood star system, recounts the modern-day obsession with fame, politics and the public ostentation of private lives.
Francesco Vezzoli b. 1971, in Brescia, Italy, currently lives and works in Milan. He studied at Central St. Martins School of Art in London from 1992 to 1995. The artists work has been presented in various museums including The Garage CCC, Moscow, (2010), MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2009), Kunsthalle Wien Project Space, Vienna (2009), Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (2009), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2009), L'UIF Wolfsonian, Miami (2008), Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2007), International Exposition of Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2001). His work has been featured in diverse biennials, including the 2006 Whitney Biennial, the 49th and 51st Biennale of Venice, the 26th Biennial of São Paulo, the 6th International Biennial of Istanbul, and in numerous group shows.