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EXHIBITIONS

Francesco Vezzoli “Museo Museion” at Museion, Bolzano

“The exhibition of the collection”

Sparking a sort of art history short-circuit, Vezzoli reinterprets part of the Museion collection by making it interface with masterpieces from Western art kept in major European and American museums.


The frames of famous paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Ingres and many more are painted trompe-l’œil style in gold leaf around works from the Museion collection. When selecting the pieces, Vezzoli paid special attention to minor works from the museum’s collections that are not frequently exhibited: alongside pieces by Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin and Michelangelo Pistoletto, we therefore find portraits by Albert Stolz and Ernst Nepo, and a landscape by Karl Plattner. By teaming these works with the historical frames of the masterpieces, Vezzoli sets up connections between artworks: some of these resonate with similarity, while others cross temporal and conceptual distances.

“In many cases the combination is contradictory, an oxymoron, while in others it is not. I would say that in this show the real works of art are the captions … presenting a portrait by a local painter surrounded by the frame of Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville is a bit like the space ship in the desert, like having a museum in the provinces that is known for its incredibly sophisticated exhibitions. It subverts our expectations, which is something I’ve always tried to do in my work.”—this is how the artist comments his intervention for Museion.

The visual dialogues he sets up—between works, forms, contents and museums—are primarily of an emotional and sentimental nature. The visitor receives information about the works on show, the frames and the paintings they belong to, but is not tied to a single interpretation, rather actively encouraged to envisage their own choice of frame to apply to the works.

The exhibition, which presents twenty-seven works including paintings, photographs and installations, is divided into different genres—portrait, self portrait, still life, landscape, etc. Each section also presents works by Vezzoli himself (13 in total). The Study Collection hosts a special section devoted to graphic works. When designing the layout the artist also intervened on the architecture: on the third floor the glass of the façade is covered by blank walls that hide the views over the surrounding landscape. The result is a perfect white cube, which presents the Museion collection in a suspended, timeless atmosphere.

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at Museion, Bolzano
until 6 November 2016

“The exhibition of the collection” installation views at Museion, Bolzano, 2016

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“The sculpture exhibition”

The interplay of associations and deconstructions between different eras and styles is also evident in the sculpture exhibition. Ancient works, made to interface with new pieces by the artist, are displayed on an imposing white platform which runs the whole length of the fourth floor. There are 19 works on show, produced between 2011 and 2016, including the new piece created for the occasion BI (A Roman Marble Janiform Herm Head, circa 2nd Century A. D.), 2015.

Vezzoli’s ironic, wry touch brings us playful reworkings of the classical roman portrait tradition, often accompanied by a historical or mythological episode that has some relevance to his own life. This can be seen in the self portrait sculpture Antique not Antique: Self-portrait as a Crying Roman Togatus (2012), which references the practice of producing statues of various Roman magistrates by using the same body and merely changing the head, and in Self-Portrait as Emperor Hadrian Loving Antinous (2012). Here the ironic, melancholic allusion is to the bond between the Emperor Hadrian and the young Greek Antinous, showing the great emperor’s vulnerability in love. The interplay between portrait and self portrait, ancient art and new production gives rise to ambiguities, but also a humorous element, as in Satire of a Satyr (2011).

In other pieces the historic exhibit is appropriated by means of applying colour. This is the case with the marble busts in the series True Colors dating to the first centuries after Christ, to which Vezzoli restored the colour. The risky operation of adding colour to ancient artworks might seem like an operation of fantasy art history, but actually draws on scientific research: Vezzoli consulted archaeologists on the colours used in ancient statuary. Indeed the incontrovertible scientific evidence seem to fly in the face of the idea we generally take for granted—thanks to the legacy of Renaissance and neoclassical culture—namely that the pristine white marble of ancient statues was a manifestation of classical perfection.

The artist directs his creativity not only to ancient art, but also modern masterpieces and contemporary icons, such as the actress Sophia Loren, transformed into one of de Chirico’s muses. Sophia features in two of the pieces on show, appearing like an introduction and conclusion to the theory of sculpture. In the words of Anna Coliva, director of the Galleria Borghese in Rome, in her contribution to the exhibition catalogue, “Choosing to focus on sculpture in this show promises to produce one of the most intense exhibition experiences that Vezzoli could opt for at this stage in his career”. “For Francesco Vezzoli it is not a question of choosing between a classic or eccentric mode of narrating the history of art, but rather opening up to multiple worlds and multiple histories of art, pursuing an ongoing conversation. For visitors to the exhibition, Museo Museion will be like experiencing one huge installation”, comments Letizia Ragaglia, Museion’s Director.

There is also a packed programme of related events, starting on 18/02 with a guided tour of Museion led by the artist himself, and continuing with various encounters with experts.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in three languages (It/Ger/Eng) published by Mousse Publishing with texts by Anna Coliva, Cerith Wyn Evans, Letizia Ragaglia, Dieter Roelstraete and a interview with Francesco Vezzoli by Cristiana Perrella.

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at Museion, Bolzano
until 16 May 2016

“The sculpture exhibition” installation views at Museion, Bolzano 2016

Courtesy: the artists and Museion, Bolzano

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