The boyishly naughty Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli loves certain things shamelessly: he loves celebrities, he loves men, and he really does adore the Classics (even if he was made to study them mercilessly as a schoolboy). At Ca’ Corner della Regina, an 18th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal of Venice, he gets to have it all.
For the Prada Foundation’s exuberantly hyped exhibition of contemporary art (Koons, Cattelan, Nauman, et al.), which curator Germano Celant has installed in the baroque and beautiful historic setting—people like pointing out that the palazzo once belonged to a pope (for the Vatican buffs, Pius VII)—to coincide with this year’s Venice Biennale, Vezzoli, a great friend of Miuccia Prada and her husband Fabrizio Bertilli, went in search of something old to dialogue with the new. He bought an antique 17th century bust of the Ancient Greek celeb Apollo—to Vezzoli, “the Brad Pitt of his day”—that he stood in a chamber of the hallowed structure, right next to a bust that he made of himself, the artist, attempting to steal an unsolicited, and maybe underappreciated, kiss. “I like a lot the fact that my pose is very obvious,” the artist said. “And that Apollo, his expression, it is very … quizzical. He seems somewhere between puzzled and disgusted by my attempts at seduction.” It might be Vezzoli’s all-time favorite self-portrait.
As excited as he was about the handsome Apollo, the artist was even more excited about everyone else in the show—which, of course, reinforced his obsession with the modern coming face to face with the ancient. “To see for the first time a Bruce Nauman installed under the gilded frescoes and Baroque moldings like this!” Vezzoli exclaimed. “For me it is natural, but this dialogue is exciting for the world to see!”
Below is a trailer Vezzoli created for the show (which runs through October 2) but—as is his prankster way—the version of the show being advertised here is one that doesn’t really exist. Although, considering the trailer stars Eva Mendes, maybe it should.