Villa Marlene is a project devised by Francesco Vezzoli which retraces his work devoted to the mythical figure of Marlene Dietrich over more than 15 years. Between new works made specially for the exhibition and works present in large private collections, Villa Marlene proposes a fictional circuit in an abode which could have hosted the actress decorated with portraits bearing her effigy produced by the most important artists of her day and age.
The artist here creates a fantasy mise en scène-like presentation of the diva’s life and on the viewers’ arrival brings to their attention this simple fact that:
Everything that you will see in this exhibition is just pure fiction.
In order to plunge visitors into a total immersion, Vezzoli takes possession of the interior of the Villa Sauber, one of the last Belle Epoque villas in Monaco, by giving it back its use value and its allegedly original décors. All the accordingly re-arranged rooms in the house are decorated, as if in an excess of megalomania, with pictures, posters, films and sculptures, which highlight the actress, and assert her status as a glamour icon.
It would seem that Marlene Dietrich was a great admirer of Giacometti. Vezzoli has thus imagined that, in a sudden fit of narcissism, the actress decided to commission the greatest artists of her day to produce works for which she was the only model. Made by copyists, portraits in the styles of Modigliani, Matisse, De Chirico, Magritte and De Lempicka fill the villa’s different rooms.
I am taking possession of this villa in order to turn it into a museum of commemorative relics. Obviously, everything is fake, but it is as if everything were true. I want to play on the idea of shifting, the way the Situationists did.
From the famous embroideries of abstract masterpieces and portraits of divas, to interventions carried out on ancient statues, Vezzoli has always woven a powerful and irreverent dialogue with art history, film, the media, and power. In this way, his work draws from contemporary popular culture, and closely imitates the formats of different media such as advertising and film. He shares his present-day concerns which are the deep-seated ambiguity of the notion of truth, the seductive power of language, and the instability of the human being.
Although he uses a varied range of media, embroidery has remained a sort of “signature” praxis since the early days of his career. Used at the outset to imitate celebrities practicing cross-stitching on the screen or behind it, it has, with time, become a more profound and contemplative activity which refers to a world of emotions, crises, obsessions and depressions, historically linked with his career.
His evident affinities for glamorous actresses reveal not so much a special interest for each one of them, nor even for their private life, but for the image which the media have created of them. It is in fact this narrative aspect, this reality taken from celebrity magazines and the gutter press which enthrall the artist.
The video work Marlene Redux (2006) could be the exhibition’s manifesto. This short film draws inspiration both from the documentary about the actress made by Maximilian Schell, and from the famous American TV series, “A True Hollywood Story”. In an ironical and novelistic way, somewhere between fake interviews and extracts from films which do not exist, we discover the life of Francesco Vezzoli, a young artist trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood in a “mockumentary” where he imagines a hypothetical bond between Marlene Dietrich and Anni Albers, who, in his view, were the two most committed and combative women of that period.
Here again, he summons a certain number of references, from the epigraph in which he quotes Tristan Tzara, to TV reality shows, by way of Bruce Naumann, Caligula, and Maximilian Schell.
Francesco Vezzoli was born in Brescia in 1971; he lives and works in Milan. He studied at Central St. Martin’s School of Art in London (1992-1995). His work has been shown in many solo exhibitions held in public and private institutions such as: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York ; il Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2002) ; the Fondazione Prada, Milan (2004 and 2005) ; le Museu Serralves, Porto (2005) ; le Consortium, Dijon (2006); Tate Modern, London (2006) ; le Jeu de Paume, Paris (2009); the Kunsthalle Vienna (2009) ; the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow (2010); the MAXXI, Rome (2013) ; the MoCA, Los Angeles (2014) ; MoMA PS1, New York (2014) and Museo Museion, Bolzano (2016). He has also taken part in numerous Biennials including those in Istanbul (1999), Venice (2001, 2005 and 2007), Liverpool (2002), Sao Paulo (2004), and Prague (2005).
Curator : Cristiano Raimondi