Confirmed the lawful appropriation of other people’s materials
Francesco Vezzoli’s work, which he made for the cover of the latest issue of Vanity Fair, went viral. A simple Italian tricolour flag is painted on canvas, with a single Lucio Fontana cut tearing it in the centre. Let’s start from facts. The first writing on the cover – quello che è non è quello che sembra (“what it is is not what it seems”) – immediately calls our attention. Then, we read, una ferita ma anche uno spiraglio (“a wound but also a glimmer”). These words immediately emphasize the double meaning of the cut: darkness and light. In Italian, both ferita (wound) and spiraglio (glimmer, opening) have a strong spatial connotation. In the Treccani dictionary, the first two synonyms of ferita are taglio (cut) and lacerazione (laceration).
This explains the connection with Fontana, the artist who christened Spatialism in the Manifesto Blanco in 1946. However, what makes Vezzoli a cultured and never banal artist is that, in this cover, he refers to a work for refined palates Lucio Fontana created in collaboration with Hisachika Takahashi in 1966. In “The originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths”, Rosalinde Krauss, the famous director of Oktober, explains how, in the post-medial age, the very concept of originality has disappeared and the appropriation of other people’s material has become one of the most widespread practices in contemporary art. Vezzoli, especially when it comes to photography, has never hidden his sources; moreover, he normally uses the renactment technique.
Appropriation can consist either in a collaboration, a loan or a theft. In the case with Fontana and Takahashi, we talk about collaboration. Both artists agreed to the work and the final result clearly shows the contribution of each of them. However, in Vezzoli’s work we can see only Fontana’s style. Moreover, there is a crucial piece of information we do not know: is this work material or digital? If it was just a Photoshop image, how could it be possible to auction it and donate the proceeds to charity, as we read in the magazine? If, instead, he acted on a spatialist work and painted the two vertical bands on it, it would be interesting to understand its selling price; the work would bear the signature of the artist from Brescia, so, its price should conform to the estimates of his works.
A precedent can be seen in Martin Kippenberger’s Modell Interconti, a coffee table he built by framing and adding four legs to an abstract canvas by Gerhard Richter he had bought in 1987. The oddest thing about this work is that, in addition to carrying Kippenberger’s signature, it was auctioned at a price that was much lower than the one at which Richter’s canvas would have been sold. Vezzoli’s work converses with pre-existence in a rather intriguing way. This artistic and advertising operation is certainly recognisable and winning; doing almost nothing, Vezzoli succeeded in having his name put before Fontana’s, attracting attention from abroad. Now, all we can do is waiting for the auction and see if they can balance the books.