AO On Site – New York: Francesco Vezzoli ‘Sacrilegio’ at Gagosian Gallery 21st Street, opened Saturday, February 5th, running through March 12, 2011

February 8th, 2011

Francesco Vezzoli, Jesus Christ Superstar, Light box (2011). Photo by Sei Eun Lee, Art Observed

Francesco Vezzoli holds his first solo exhibition Sacrilegio in New York at the 21st Street Gagosian Gallery through March 12th. Vezzoli has enlarged several Madonna and Child paintings by 15th and 16th century artists Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea Mantegna, and Sandro Botticelli, reinterpreting them within a contemporary context by replacing the virginal faces with supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford, Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, and Kim Alexis.

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying portrait of Kim Alexis as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (after Giovanni Bellini) (2010). Via Gagosian Gallery

More text and images after the jump…

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying Portrait of Cindy Crawford as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Andrea Mantegna), (2011). Via Gagosian Gallery

Francesco Vezzoli in front of his work at the Gagosian Gallery, 2011. Via Vogue

Vezzoli worked with architect Annabelle Selldorf to transform the gallery—often referred to as the Cathedral of Contemporary Art—into a Renaissance chapel.  They achieved the holy ambiance by dimming the lights and situating a light box depiciting Jesus Christ on the wall opposite the entrance, as a stained glass window would normally be in an actual chapel.

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying Portrait of Naomi Campbell as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Cima da Conegliano) (2010). Via Gagosian Gallery

Vezzoli adorned each supermodel with makeup, tattoos, and large oblong tears in needlepoint, the artist’s signature technique.  According to the gallery’s press release, the artist chose these supermodels “to point to our society’s worship of figures from the fashion and celebrity industries.”  Vezzoli plays with how people today look up to these figures just as Catholics would revere the historical icons and portraits of the Virgin Mary.  The artist has reinterpreted the current status of female celebrities and models in today’s society through the most revered female religious icon, the Virgin Mary.

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying Portrait of Christie Brinkley as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Giovanni Bellini) (2010). Via Gagosian Gallery

The artist also notes our society’s obsession over materialism and maternity.  In an interview with Nowness, the artist said, “Maternity and parenthood seems to be the new Fendi bag.  Everybody’s obsessed.  Once upon a time the biggest movie star, Elizabeth Taylor, had seven husbands, and now the biggest movie star, Angelina Jolie, has seven kids.”  Vezzoli plays with the concept of the maternal role in a separate architectural space, referred to as “the crypt of memory,” by presenting a black and white video “Madonna with Embroidering Child.”  Here, the artist recasts Pinturicchio’s Madonna with Writing Child image by featuring his own mother as the Virgin Mary and referencing a little boy as himself.

Hamish Bowles, European Editor for Vogue, at the opening of Francesco Vezzoli’s Sacrilegio at Gagosian Gallery. Via Vogue.

Tim Goossens, curator, and Todd Eberle, photographer, at the opening of Francesco Vezzoli’s Sacrilegio at Gagosian Gallery. Via Vogue.

– S. Lee

Related Links:

Gagosian Gallery [Official Site]
What People are Talking About [Vogue]
Francesco Vezzoli Interview [Nowness]