Copy That

Gucci ex­am­ines the con­cepts of orig­i­nal­ity and pla­gia­rism with an ex­hi­bi­tion whose name, The Artist Is Present, is it­self a copy

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

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 .

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