Francesco Vezzoli

Francesco Vezzoli: A True Hollywood Story!


A major survey of work made over the past twelve years by the celebrated Italian artist.

Curated by Gregory Burke

"the only thing that counts at the moment is gossip"
– Tristan Tzara, Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love, 1920, from Francesco Vezzoli, Marlene Redux: A True Hollywood Story!
 
The centerpiece of Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli's exhibition, and the work that inspired its title, is the film installation Marlene Redux: A True Hollywood Story! (2006). The film tracks Vezzoli's scandalous life and art career, the plot hinging on coverage of a fictional project by Vezzoli, an implausible remake of Maximilian Schell's 1984 documentary Marlene, about Marlene Dietrich. All works in the exhibition relate to the film's plot and span the period from 1995 to the present. In this sense the exhibition can be seen as a survey of Vezzoli, framed within a kitsch entertainment format.
 
Vezzoli has become something of a phenomenon. He became prominent at the Venice Biennale in 2001 with the remarkable Veruschka Was Here. Part performance, part installation, the work featured the legendary model embroidering the 1969 iconic image of herself that graced the cover of Stern magazine and cemented her fame as the world's first supermodel. Fast-forward six years to 2007 and Vezzoli is representing Italy at this year's Venice Biennale with Democrazy, a film installation starring Sharon Stone and the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. Known for his enduring interest in celebrity, Vezzoli's own fame has rapidly grown: he has been featured in numerous blogs and style and entertainment magazines such as Vanity Fair and Italian Vogue.
 
The work that most propelled the buzz around Vezzoli was Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s ‘Caligula,’ which debuted at the Venice Biennale in 2005 and was included in the Whitney Biennial in 2006. Masquerading as a trailer for a remake of the controversial 1979 film Caligula, it featured original stars Helen Mirren and Adriana Asti with appearances by a host of other celebrities like Milla Jovovich, Courtney Love and writer Gore Vidal, who plays himself, with costumes by Donatella Versace. Such an alluring mix of sex, power, Hollywood and pop culture celebrity, fashion and literary credibility, all under the banner of contemporary art, was guaranteed to cause a stir.
 
Vezzoli has frequently included himself in his works, from playing peripheral figures in early films to performing as the protagonist in The End of the Human Voice (2001) alongside Bianca Jagger. With Marlene Redux, Vezzoli becomes his own subject in a mock documentary that traces his meteoric rise and demise, emulating the format of television’s E! True Hollywood. Part fact, part fiction, the plot slips between Vezzoli as artist and Vezzoli as a failed Hollywood film director who seeks refuge in male prostitutes, dark rooms and despair. This film surveys much of Vezzoli's practice including embroidered portraits of female cinematic icons and films, making much of the impact of Caligula on his career. It also dwells on Vezzoli's supposed remake of Marlene and features "recovered footage" of actors playing Dietrich and Anni Albers, the celebrated German textile artist and wife of abstract painter Josef Albers. Employing a similar strategy to Caligula, Marlene exists as recovered footage within an art installation masquerading as a documentary.
 
Much work in The Power Plant exhibition relates to the Marlene remake, including references to the original film by Schell. It also paradoxically includes embroidered interpretations of Josef Albers' series Homage to the Square, begun by Vezzoli in 1995, as if leading to the remake of Marlene. The associations with Dietrich and Anni Albers continue the web of associations that Vezzoli has built around himself as an artist who simultaneously plays, reinvents and deconstructs himself.
 
Marlene Redux: A True Hollywood Story! was commissioned for the François Pinault Collection in 2006 and The Power Plant installation marks its North American premiere. Many embroideries and poster/paintings in the exhibition are presented publicly for the first time.
 
A catalogue will feature essays by the curator and director of The Power Plant, Gregory Burke, Italian writer Gianfranco Maraniello and American writer David Rimanelli.
 

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