Francesco Vezzoli. Infinite Palimpsests
After visiting the Archaeological Park and Museum of Santa Giulia in Brescia – where Francesco Vezzoli’s works are currently on display until January 16, 2022 – I had the occasion of exchange thoughts with the artist that brought to the surface central themes of the exhibition and of his practice. We discussed the relationship between the archaeological context and his art, the exhibition design, the protagonists such as the Winged Victory, the characters of pop culture and the iconic tear on portraits, without neglecting a reflection on the art of restoration and the role of cinema in his research.
Martina Alemani: How did the project of curatorial interventions at the Archaeological Park and Museum of Santa Giulia in Brescia come about?
Francesco Vezzoli: It was born very spontaneously…
I can imagine that the director of the museum “stumbled” upon my sculptures and thought that the theme of cultural stratification could dialogue with the real archaeological stratification of the park.
MA: What is the link between the eight contemporary works on display and the context that hosts them, of archaeology and ancient art?
FV: Precisely the most authentic connection is the territory of study, that unites my work and that of the museum.
I think we both spend our time looking at how art regenerates, reproposes and recycles itself over time, continually changing patterns and styles and purposes, a sort of infinite palimpsest at the center of which man remains with its need to celebrate and to be celebrated. The Winged Victory, for example, is a masterpiece of beauty, propaganda and vanity.
MA: How did the collaboration with Filippo Bisagni, creator and curator of the exhibition design, begin?
FV: Filippo is fundamental in the role of exhibition designer not only for his lucidity but also because the artist very often is not the best curator of himself nor the best installer. Maybe I am too egoriferous or unnecessarily attached to the details of a specific sculpture for reasons that even the most attentive visitor would find obscure. Filippo arrives, clears the field, and renews the language and when he intervenes, even in a radical way… I have a lot of fun.
MA: What is the message that you convey with the Winged Victory, the protagonist of the exhibition, to celebrate its return to the city of Brescia?
FV: Personally, the only message I have at heart is that of the enhancement of heritage. I have lived in America for twenty years and I have visited the Metropolitan Museum at least a hundred times. It is marvelous for goodness’ sake, but in order to have a full-length bronze of the quality and beauty of the Boxer or the Winged Victory they must always “phone” us and ask for a loan. This is an objective fact. So it’s a pity to see the Italian tourist all excited about average quality artifacts installed and glorified in a late kitsch architecture on fifth avenue, unaware that the real masterpieces are all here at km zero.
MA: Can the work that is done on truly ancient sculptures then remodeled become a pathway related to the practice of restoration?
FV: We can say that it starts from the concept of restoration.
It is documented and established by all studies on ancient art. For many centuries we have always proceeded with a restoration that we could provocatively define as DECORATIVE, that is, aimed at preserving the scenic impact of the work of art. In the last centuries the school of the respectful CONSERVATIVE restoration has become more and more popular, therefore no added arms or legs recovered from other sculptures. No pastiche. No contamination. Academically I respect the rule of “conservative” restoration but emotionally I find “decorative” restoration much more narrative and amusing.
MA: How does it happen the choice of pop culture characters to whom your works are often dedicated? In the case of this exhibition, we are talking about Twiggy, Sophia Loren, Kim Kardashian.
FV: I try to choose absolute symbolism or characters recognizable in some way by all of the potential viewers.
MA: What inspired the iconic tear, which often accompanies the subjects of your works?
FV: The censorship of feelings operated by historical avant-gardes. I feel like the Matarazzo of contemporary art!
MA: What role does cinema play in your research? The project in Brescia includes a series of screenings with – among those dedicated to you – films by some masters of Italian cinema, such as Federico Fellini, Steno, Mario Mattioli.
FV: The cinema does not have a specific role in my research today, actually. Rather, together with television, it has been the “factory of my dreams” during my adolescence. For Brescia, I limited myself to choosing films that recounted my memories and projections as a child, there was nothing more than that.