Vanessa Beecroft: Living Sculpture

The Conceptual Art Star Tackles Weighty Issues With Carrara Marble in VB70

The ever-provocative Vanessa Beecroft exposes an intimate view of her latest performance in this series of exclusive photographs shot by the artist herself. Complementing her Carrara marble renditions of the female form, the three-hour event at Milan’s Lia Rumma Gallery, entitled VB70, saw a select group of muses delicately balanced on uncut stone plinths, naked except for their vibrantly colored body paint. Following an open casting call, the Italian-born Beecroft and her close friend and Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani selected several models to take part and even invited the artist's sister-in-law and Hollywood neighbor to bare all. Deceptive in their seemingly simple concepts, Beecroft’s installations typically involve groups of nude models and question representations of the body, beauty and identity. Her ideological challenges have struck a chord in fashion and celebrity circles, and resulted in collaborations with Louis Vuitton, Maison Martin Margiela and Kanye West. Beecroft spoke to NOWNESS about corporeal assumptions. 

You opened up the casting to the public. How did you go about the selection process with Franca Sozzani? What were you looking for?
Women that looked remote like sculptures or mystical figures. An example would be [models like] Kristen McMenamy, Alek Wek, Karen Elson. They look unreal, as if they belong to another world.

You ended up with a wide range of body types.
I didn’t want the women to all be young. The women had to be human in a sculptural sense. Curves, age and particular features were contemplated, as they are in portraits of people, not as the way they are in magazines.

This exhibition continues your recent foray into Cararra marble. Are you making a comment through using this material?
The connection with Carrara happened by chance. Someone asked me to go to their studio and try the material. I realized it as a performance, casting women and creating fragments with marbles not traditionally used to represent the figure, like reds, blues, greens, onyx, and marbles with a lot of texture and veins, contrary to the pure stone historically used in sculpture. I wanted to play with this rhetorical material, as if I was doing a collage regardless of gravity and costs.

What is the relationship between the body paint and the colored marble?
I wanted to transform the women into marbles, or into something between women and marbles. They looked like aliens—I related to that. In totality, it was like a camouflage of real and unreal; mimetic pieces made by real and unreal people. As in my other performances, there is the theme of the physical presence of live women, but with the presence of the stones, the ephemeral essence of the performance was reified. The women at once lost their immediate sense of being alive when camouflaged amongst the stones. The stones are colorful but hard and dead.
Your work has consistently touched on ideas current within fashion. What interests you about that conversation?
Maybe the fact that fashion tries to correct the look of people when they are dressed—to conceptualize it. I like when fashion destabilizes society in a subtle way, using tradition to break it, like YSL, Margiela, Helmut Lang.

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