High-concept cutting and pasting with Gucci.
IN SHANGHAI, the land of counterfeit luxury goods, an exhibition questioning the legitimacy and ethics of originality and appropriation in modern art is taking place. Dreamt up by Alessandro Michele, the Gucci creative director, who regularly repurposes iconic images and logos into collages for his collections, and curated by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan, everything here is a copy. Or a copy of a copy. Even the show’s title,the Artist is Present, has been taken from a 2010 exhibition by performance artist Marina Abramovi´c. Here, Cattelan explains the concept behind the copy-and-paste. How did the collaboration with Alessandro Michele come about? We’re both fascinated by the overlap between these two different methods of being creative [art and fashion design], and if it’s true that opposites attract, I promise our collaboration is working! We come from very diverse backgrounds and modes of creation. I find fashion fascinating for its double nature — on one hand, it’s a really advanced industrial and economic system, involving so
many people in the production chain. On the other, it seems to be depending on one head only, which is the creative director’s head — she or he has to make rapid and instinctual choices, on which all those people rely. I work in a completely different way — I prefer not to be bound to anyone who counts on my inspiration to make a living — that’s why I always avoided having a studio. The concept behind the curated collection of artworks is ‘The copy is
the original’. What does this mean to you? It’s a concept as old as humanity itself. Copying has to do with the transmission and diffusion of knowledge, both between contemporaries and to those who haven’t been born yet. Ancient Romans endlessly copied the classical Greek statues because they wanted to make it possible for everyone — from the senator to the blacksmith — to admire them. More recently, we’ve been through years when private property, and then copyrighting, has been such an essential principle against other ideologies that we now fail to recognise the value of the act of copying.the sharing economy, from [the now-defunct peer-to-peer music file sharing service] Napster on, seems to redeem this situation, and to reconsider copying as a declaration of esteem, even romantic. My newsagent says:“start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy,youwillfindyourself”. How will the works in the exhibition support the theme? Each work on show has a different relationship with the concept of copying. To me, it was important to witness the most comprehensive range possible of reproduction and appropriation. There will be repeated actions, identity exchanges, copies of portraits and huge masterpieces from the past reproduced on a smaller scale. What do you hope the viewer will gain from experiencing this exhibition? I’m rather kind of oldschool in my thinking that after an artist does his work, it’s no longer his — I see what people make of it. It’s the same with an artist-curated exhibition. My hope for this exhibition is that it finds its way to the West because it would be interesting to compare and contrast the feedback on the issue of copying from audiences in such a culturally diverse part of the world.
THE ARTIST IS PRESENT Until December 16, Yuz Museum, 35 Fenggu Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai. yuzmshanghai.org.