Perfume, politics and piety — nothing is taboo for artist Francesco Vezzoli. For nearly two decades, Vezzoli has played around with the identification of celebrity, fame and narcissism by using a palette of actors and rock stars in video, self-portraits and sculpture. His work teases between art and ad, and his superstar subject matter has skyrocketed Vezzoli himself into the celebrity stratosphere. This year, the artist celebrates his career with The Trinity — a trio of mega-exhibitions in Rome, New York and Los Angeles.
From now through November 24, Galleria Vezzoli at Rome’s MAXXI museum attempts to anthologize more than 90 pieces of Vezzoli’s work in a setting reminiscent of the 19th-century grand salons. Red walls, gilded frames and marble statues are backdrop to the compendium of film trailers, television ads and posters featuring celebrities like Eva Mendes, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman and Lady Gaga.
Galleria Vezzoli is heady and playful, focusing less on lauding the cult of celebrity and more on humorous provocation. Throughout the exhibition, and over the past 15 years, Vezzoli self-portraits sneak into his work, whether in re-creations of epic Hollywood movie posters or as the “face” of the fictitious fragrance Greed, a sly wink to Marcel Duchamp’s readymade perfume bottle featuring himself as the character Rrose Sélavy. Lavish, ironic and self-referential, Galleria Vezzoli, according to the artist, is a mix of fun and retrospective: “It looks behind,” he says. “It’s a cathartic experience. I’m doing this to throw it all behind my shoulder and start with new adventures.”
Vezzoli’s adventures include the remaining two shows of The Trinity: Church of Vezzoli, a 19th-century Italian church reconstructed in the courtyard of New York’s MoMA PS1 (slated to open in the fall), and Cinema Vezzoli, a Vezzoli-eye view of European cinema and Hollywood celebrity at Los Angeles’ MoCA (opening sometime in 2014).
Photos courtesy of Musacchio, Ianniello and Napolitano