Copy that: Gucci director’s show examining plagiarism even borrows name of another

Ni Ni, Liu Wen, Li Yuchun and Susie Bubble attend opening of Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele and artist Maurizio Cattelan’s thought-provoking show in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 3:04pm

Plagiarism in art and fashion is nothing new, but what constitutes copying and what is its value? Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan seeks to answer this question in an exhibition in Shanghai, which begins with the bold statement, “Truth#1, I copy therefore I am”.

A collaboration with the creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, Cattelan’s exhibition at the Yuz Museum challenges the principles of modern art – originality, intention, expression. The cleverly curated show, featuring installations, sculptures and multimedia works by more than 30 artists, opened to a star-studded crowd on Wednesday. Attendees include model Liu Wen and celebrities such as Li Yuchun and Ni Ni.

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“Copying is like a blasphemy: it could seem not respectful towards God, but at the same time is the significative recognition of [his] existence”, says Cattelan.

The exhibition borrows its title, “The Artist is Present”, from a 2010 solo show by Marina Abramovic at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The concept of authenticity is questioned in works such as Aleksandra Mir’s Shanghai, which is a wall of postcards bearing the name of the city but scenes from elsewhere; two pictures depicting artist Gillian Wearing’s parents seem like regular photos, but both are self-portraits of the artist donning eerily realistic silicone masks of her parents.

Cattelan recreates his macabre sculptures on a much smaller scale; some are no bigger than a hand.

His sense of humour, often evident in his works, is apparent in his curation as well.

Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca No. 5 is a mechanical sculpture – some have called it “a monster pooping machine” – that imitates the functions of a digestive system, complete with fake excrement coming out from one end.

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The most baffling work on is Danish artist group Superflex’s Power Toilets, which duplicates the bathroom used by members of the United Nations Security Council. Visitors to the exhibition were not sure if they had accidentally walked into the museum’s bathroom, and if not, where the exit was (it’s inside one of the cubicles).

Mika Rottenburg’s video work NoNoseKnows, which was mobbed at the Venice Biennale in 2015, delves into the production of cultured pearls.

“It is a collaboration between an erudite designer and a creator known for upending the norms and our imagination. So I knew it’d be good, but I never thought it would be so amazing,” said Raven Chen, founder of the contemporary fashion website Heaven Raven.

The Artist is Present, Yuz Museum, 35 Fenggu Road, Xuhui Qu, Oct 11 – Dec 16, 10am – 9pm, Closed on Mondays.