FEB 5: Francesco Vezzoli

The artist's new show at the Gagosian Gallery.


Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli has, over the past decade, charmed Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Courtney Love, and Gore Vidal, among others, into appearing in his films and performances. He even collaborated with Roman Polanski on a commercial for an imaginary fragrance featuring Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams. But perhaps the artist’s ultimate pop culture coup came in 2009, when he directed a ballet-cum-spectacle starring Lady Gaga for the 30th-anniversary gala of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art. For Vezzoli it marked the point of diminishing returns. “After Lady Gaga I thought, Time to go back full circle,” he says. “Maybe I work with my mother.” A new video featuring Vezzoli’s mamma in the role of the Virgin Mary is one of the works in “Sacrilegio,” his solo show opening February 5 at Larry Gagosian’s West 21st Street location in New York. Also included in the exhibition, which runs until March 12, are new needlepoint pieces based on 15th-century Italian renderings of the Virgin Mary that are overlaid with the faces of Eighties supermodels (pictured: Crying Portrait of Christie Brinkley as a Renaissance Madonna With Holy Child). “The Church commissioned some of the most erotically charged images in the history of art,” Vezzoli explains. “Using supermodels is my way of saying that the original paintings are really sensual.” Yet despite the subject matter—and the fact that he calls Gagosian’s gallery “the chapel of Chelsea”—Vezzoli doesn’t count himself among the faithful. “I believe in the religion of other people’s creativity,” he says, adding that he refused Communion at age nine. “Catholicism wasn’t for me. I’m not holy enough— I’m a dirty boy.”