The designer Alessandro Michele with the artist Maurizio Cattelan curate an exhibition-project to show the power of simulation in the arts

Text by: Fiammetta Cesana

The idea of uniqueness has always been something sacred, intrinsically linked to the sphere of beauty and the divine. “You shall have no other Gods but me” states the first commandment of Judaism and Christianity. Anything that tries to fake the word of the Lord is rejected as profane, wrong, obscure… And then, since men through their actions must be the reflection of God, we are taught to be spokesmen of this singularity. All human creations therefore, including art, literature, music, as well as scientific discoveries, acquire greater validity and admiration according to their original and inimitable achievement.

In an absolute destruction of this biblical principle, which has been assumed by individuals as a fundamental monitor for their self-realization, the exhibition “The Artist is Present” celebrates the concept of simulation as a way to understand the current world and its new artistic ideologies. Exploring the relationship between image and reality, representation and truth, a group of several artists is committed to emphasize the copy as the foundation of contemporary art.

Curated by Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director, together with the artist Maurizio Cattelan, famous for its taxidermied horses gone headfirst into a wall, this eporject will take place in the “temple of copying”: China. An overwhelming path of images that identifies the heritage of today’s global culture in the ability to copy ideas, shapes and styles. The man is seen as both a feeder and greedy consumer of social simulacra that, promoting new accepted faiths and dogmas, suspend us between illusion and reality.

The copy is here the maximum expression of the creative process, whose value is equal to one of the original. It is a powerful instrument of preservation and testimony of the original work itself. “Copying is like a blasphemy: it could be seen as disrespectful of God, but at the same time it is the significant acknowledgement of his existence”, Cattelan says. The ethics of originality, intention and expression are demolished in the favor of a new idea of counterfeiting, which is essential to face the rules of our society. It is an inevitable heres: a new prophecy of those images that were already absorbed and considered immortal… Like paintings of the great masters of the past, marble busts of ancient Rome, flowered carpets, little dragons and skulls of unknown creatures… 

Rightly, the title and the posters of the exhibition, which are now being distributed between the streets of Milan, London, New York and Hong Kong, are a replica. Engaging the passersby in a nostalgic transport, they reproduce the advertising campaign of the famous performance at MoMA by Marina Abramović, the “Grandmother of performance art”. In 2010 the Serbian-born artist had impressed and moved the international audience by making visitors sit in front of her to stare into her eyes in silence, creating with them an amazing visual empathy. The performance, lasted for three months, reached its climax with the arrival of a very special visitor: Uwe Laysiepen (in art “Ulay”), Abramović’s former professional and sentimental partner to whom she said goodbye twenty-three years before during another performance on the China Great Wall. The heart-warming video of the two sitting in front of each other became unforgettable…

Therefore, the return of “The Artist is present” by Michele and Cattelan goes beyond the limits of time, showing the ability of the copy to bring past artworks and their emotional impact into new contexts and beliefs, and so rising rediscovered, different, feelings. 

“The Artist is Present”
Yuz Museum
From October 11 to December 16, 2018