Still from Yuri Ancarani’s iPhone-shot film for Gucci.

the new gucci exhibition in china is all about copying

Even its title is borrowed as the provocative art prankster Maurizio Cattelan teams up with Alessandro Michele for an exhibition that promises to dismantle concepts of originality, intention, expression, and authorship.

by Steve Salter
18 April 2018, 9:22am

Still from Yuri Ancarani’s iPhone-shot film for Gucci.

“My job is to invent possibilities,” Alessandro Michele explained backstage in the moments after presenting his Gucci autumn/winter 18 show. “We are all hybrids. It is something we have to cultivate and take care of on a daily basis.” Building on spring/summer 18’s "creation is a poetic act" statement, Alessandro suggested that his role as a designer was akin to that of a surgeon -- cutting and reconstructing materials and fabrics to create a new personality and identity. Developing this idea further, he has partnered with fellow Italian artistic-thought-provoker Maurizio Cattelan for Gucci’s next exhibition, The artist is present. Now, If you’re wondering where you’ve heard this title before, do you remember Marina Abramović’s passive performance art meet-and-greet? Well, that’s what it was called. In copy and paste mode, Gucci’s version will focus on artistic projects that propose copying as a paradigm of global culture. The Shanghai-set show promises to explore how originality can be reached through the act of repetition, and how originals themselves can be preserved through copies. In a world in which we can buy official bootlegs, our influencers are CGI and our social feeds are manipulated by bots, the exhibition feels particularly apt for 2018.

“This is the story of a dream,” the exhibition press release explains. “Imagine a world crowded with old master portraits, ancient Roman marble heads, gold reliquaries filled with zombies’ hands and hearts, blooming carpets and colourful tapestry, baby dragons, and unknown creatures’ skulls.” As this could so easily be a Gucci show review, this dream belongs to Michele. Within it, he meets Cattelan, the “tireless artist, affected by a serious image hoarding disorder.” As he has long declared originality an overrated and dated concept, he’s the perfect partner to curate the exhibition. Both Michele and Cattelan delight in the duality that exists between image and reality, representation and presentation. With the dream shared, The artist is present will open in Shanghai -- homeland to “the copy is the original” thought -- in October. If you just can’t wait, Yuri Ancarani’s iPhone-shot film follows Cattelan to the Far East and shares a sneak peek inside his curation process.

Maurizio Cattelan
alessandro michele