Gucci examines the concepts of originality and plagiarism with an exhibition whose name, The Artist Is Present, is itself a copy
As Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Yet today, with copycat culture rife across the realms of art, fashion and even tech, where does inspiration end and plagiarism begin? And is it time to reinterpret the concept of counterfeit?
These questions are put under the spotlight at a Shanghai exhibition staged by Gucci. Titled The Artist Is Present―a name taken from a 2010 show by performance artist Marina Abramovic at New York’s Museum of Modern Art―the show is the brainchild of Italian artist and curator Maurizio Cattelan and daredevil Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele.
Spanning 16 rooms of the Yuz Museum and featuring works by more than 30 Chinese and international artists, the show, which opened in October to an A-list crowd and runs until December 16, seeks to explore the practice of appropriation in contemporary culture, the intricate juxtaposition of repetition and originality, and how originals themselves can in fact be preserved through copies.
Among the many visual delights is a work conceived by Cattelan specifically for the exhibition—an exquisitely detailed 1:6-scale reproduction of the Sistine Chapel (pictured above). By making the Vatican City’s architectural masterpiece and its world famous frescoes by Michelangelo “accessible on a human scale,” Cattelan offers audiences a chance to admire them “without any limitation.”
Other highlights include Hong Kong artist Andy Hung’s reproduction of Gucci’s signature Sylvie bag constructed over three weeks with 1,000 Lego bricks (pictured above top left); an installation by Chinese multimedia artist Xu Zhen in which stone replicas of Buddhist figures stacked on the shoulders of classical Greek marble sculptures challenge notions of East meets West; and an ultra-instagrammable photo wall that replicates the iconic Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.
The show evokes the thought-provoking, brazen and cheeky spirit Michele is applying in ushering in an exciting new era for 97-year-old Gucci. Maurizio Cattelan’s The Artist is Present exhibition is at the Yuz Museum until December 16 .