Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Yet in today’s era where the copycat culture across the realms of art, fashion and even tech is rife—where does inspiration end and plagiarism begin? And is it time to reinterpret the concept of counterfeit?
These questions are placed in the spotlight at Gucci’s latest creative project: The Artist Is Present (the title itself is taken from Marina Abramoviç’s 2010 show at the New York’s Museum of Modern Art), a joint brainchild of Italian artist and curator Maurizio Cattelan and Gucci’s daredevil creative director Alessandro Michele.
Spanning 16 rooms and featuring the works of over 30 artists, the two-month-long show seeks to explore the act of appropriation in contemporary culture, how originality can be reached through the act of repetition, and how originals themselves can be preserved through copies.
The exhibition runs at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai from now until December 16. In the gallery below, we highlight seven must-see works that are worth a weekender to the city alone:
A work by Paris-based Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga, the first room of the show features a clever juxtaposition of two colours that are significant in their social meanings: the Baker-Miller pink has been proven to reduce aggressive behaviour, while the fluorescent blue is used to reduce the visibility of veins to help discourage intravenous drug use.
Chinese artist Xu Zhen seeks to challenge the notion of East-meets-West and express that "civilization has no boundaries" with this provocative installation, which sees stone replicas of Buddhist religious figures stacked and attached on the shoulders of classical Greek marble sculptures.
A stunning and exquisitely detailed 1:6 scale reproduction of the Sistine Chapel, this project was specifically conceived by Maurizio Cattelan for this exhibition, where he makes the architectural masterpiece and all its famous frescoes and interiors "accessible on a human scale".
Hong Kong artist Andy Hung's Lego reproduction of one of Gucci's signature bags, the Sylvie, which was constructed over three weeks using 1,000 pieces of Lego-is housed in this room alongside the works of seven other artists. They include Aleksandra Mir's remake of his own 2009 artwork that features thousands of postcards as free giveaways; a series of trompe l'oeil wood panel paintings marred by stickers by Sayre Gomez; and books by Damon Zucconi.
Set against Yan Pei-Ming’s black-and-white portrait of a Chinese empress dowager, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s performance piece consists of a popular Icelandic lovesong performed every ten minutes by a local woman in the role of the artist‘s great great great grandmother.
As part of her ‘Family Portrait’ series, artist Gillian Wearing transforms herself into her mother and father using custom silicone masks, era-specific wigs, and makeup. With her identity being contingent of that of her family's, the project is a materialisation of the way children are bequeathed to their parents’ behaviours.
The Hollywood Sign
Housed unofficially in room 17, the ultra-Instagrammable photo wall is a copy of one located in Las Vegas, which is itself a replica of the famous Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, thus raising the question of the identity of the original and their copies.
(See also: What To Know About Bangkok's First Art Biennale)