Vanessa Beecroft at Palazzo Reale: between photographs and sculptures

Words by Simone Gramegna
November 28, 2016

Walking through the majestic chambers of Milan’s Palazzo Reale, visitors are enraptured by shapes and colours of a neoclassic taste that cannot help but astonish them. The splendour of the royal palace, though, is a mere white box compared to the even more extraordinary artworks it is periodically filled with.

On the occasion of the very first edition of the Photo Vogue Festival, Vanessa Beecroft takes part to one of the many events that liven the city up, and it does within this great frame. The setting highlights the importance of the female gaze, the main theme of this occurrence. Displayed in the half-light of Prince’s Apartment rooms, the installation juxtaposes vivid polaroids to glacial sculptures. Throwing a burst of light on both the versatility of the artist and the photographic medium, her pieces finally return an unusual reflection on the female body.

Best known for her complex and controversial performances that took place all over the world, in the monographic exhibition Polaroids 1993-2016 the Italian artist bounds together not only photography and sculpture, but also contemporariness and tradition, nudity and masks. Between sexuality and fashion, her investigation on female constructs becomes a site of transformation in which identity is questioned. Often political, her work is highly provocative and thinly disturbing: here, evanescent snapshots of mannequins and personas communicate with the hardness and coldness of stone visages. By matching damask wallpaper’s shade, these intimate portraits invite the observer to look further, deeper to guess what is really hidden under the photographic surface of a half-naked body or a blue-dyed face.

Vanessa Beecroft is one of the most prestigious and appreciated Italian artists. Born in 1969 in Genova, Italy, she graduated at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Shaking audience’s expectation, the artist is mostly famous for her performances consisting of site-specific tableaux vivants that involve political, historical, social or even autobiographical meanings. Her last performance held in Italy’s fashion capital is VB65. Commissioned by PAC in 2009, it featured a modern Last Supper of male African immigrants who, well-dressed in black suits and white shirts, were caught in the act of eating chicken with no cutlery.

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