Prolific Italian curator Francesco Bonami has a penchant for performance. Earlier this month, we saw his his avant-guard work inaugurating Joseph Nahmad's new London space, and this time last year at Luxembourg & Dayan's 'language as artistry' exhibition.
This summer, Luxembourg & Dayan welcome Bonami back, to collaborate on an absurdist, sculpture-as-performance production, 'Melodrama', with 'Act I' taking place in the London space, and 'Act II' to follow in New York.
Wallpaper* was intrigued to know how such an ambitious, two-part show could be realised across continents. 'The difficult thing was to find the right works, and we decided to limit the display to just four in each location,' Bonami explains. 'So they had to be the right ones – works that could eventually compose one single show. But like in a play you can have some characters in the first act and others in the second.'
The London opening introduces a diverse range of objects, or 'characters', spanning the period 1966–2007, setting us up for an absurdist, Beckettian romp. On entering, the audience of gallery-goers is confronted by Maurizio Cattelan’s flailing, headless taxidermied horse. Opposite, Pino Pascali’s dolphin tail, Coda di Delfino, 1966, seems eager to escape through the wings, leaving nothing more than a trace. Alongside these decapitated beasts, we find a series of quiet photographs by Franco Vimercati, from his Ciclo Zuppiera (1983) soup terrine series. This chorus of Italian players is broken by the inclusion of Switzerland's sculpting duo Fischli/Weiss, and their inanimate black rubber Heart, 1987, which lies lifeless on a pedestal at the centre of the space.
The objects are staged in a way in which they can communicate easily. 'If you believe that objects can perform like actors then they will,' Bonami says. 'Look at Vimercati's soup terrine – isn't she like an actress in a neo-realist movie? If Walt Disney had been born in Italy he could have been the curator of a show like this. In his animation movies animals and objects are his actors; humans are marginal in a way'.
The first 'human' element is introduced in Act II, which raises its curtain in New York on 14 July. Vincenzo Gemito's 19th century bronze bust sits in unlikely conversation with another cast bronze piece by Jeff Koons. As yet unnamed work from Urs Fischer and Richard Serra complete the line-up of a truly A-list sculpting cast.