Purple Magazine
— Purple 76 Index issue #29 S/S 2018

Vezzoli francesco

portrait and interview by OLIVIER ZAHM
All images courtesy of the artist


OLIVIER ZAHM — What is the principal aspect of your personality?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — I can’t really see myself from the outside, to be honest, so I truly don’t know how people perceive me. All I can say is that I am always absolutely sincere. Even when it’s hard, I manage to be.

OLIVIER ZAHM — If you were not yourself, who would you be?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Someone who tries to be me.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What is your idea of happiness?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Alone on the deserted rocks of Lavezzi, where Marco Ferreri filmed Liza, the film with Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. I would be there with an iPhone so I can reach the ones I love.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is your art about lost paradises? I’ve seen you dealing with antique sculpture, Hollywood and film glamour, opera, museums, and Italian television in the ’70s.

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Yes, as Greta Garbo says in the film Queen Christina, true love is nostalgia for a place where you have never been. I want to create art that unlocks that kind of desire.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you feel nostalgic? When?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Only when I think about my holidays with my grandmothers and all my aunties in awe of the little boy called Francesco.


OLIVIER ZAHM — What quality do you most desire in a man?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Calmness. Hysteria is the least sexy thing ever.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Year after year, you continue to create successful artistic collaborations with talents from fashion, cinema, and music. Recently, you teamed up with Miuccia Prada, M/M, Stephen Galloway, and an artist from the Opéra de Paris to produce mini-opera performances in the Centre Georges Pompidou, connecting them with historical artworks. Do you think that in a period that digitalizes life, art will be more and more about having a direct experience and less about objects?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Absolutely. The market tries very hard to charge objects with fictional and financial meanings, but it kind of fails in the end. Maybe in the near future, only handmade artworks or real-life performances will retain some sort of appeal or value — I can’t predict it. But above everything, having a true-life art experience will always matter and make a difference. I don’t have regrets, but I so wish I could have seen Maria Callas singing or Rudolf Nureyev dancing or Van Morrison singing and fainting onstage. All the rest is just an Insta story — beautiful, but forgettable and erasable.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you think of your influence on the public? How would you like to affect the people who experience your art?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Honestly, I never think about that. I can’t imagine anyone being changed or deeply affected by what I do. I’m not playing humble — I really can’t.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You curated “TV 70” at the Prada Foundation in April 2017. It showed how television could expose high-quality cultural and political content to the masses, especially for women. What do you think about how social media is now replacing curated, verified, and, of course, centralized/censured sources of information?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Social media is the focus of my attention. They are wiping away any other preconceived form of culture or communication. George Orwell would be the editor of The New York Times these days. However, as Gore Vidal says at the beginning of Caligula, “Every moment in history is dark.” The world has seen darker days than these. We know we are being monitored and scrutinized constantly, but we are also free to make unexpected choices. Obviously, if you decide not to conform, you pay a price, but the pleasure of being a rebel is priceless.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you think of our politically dystopic times?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — These times are dystopic especially because, in the United States, everyone seems obsessed with perfection and honesty and morality. People set the bar too high for themselves, and they end up being schizophrenic. Husbands promise obsessive loyalty to their wives, and they are regularly caught with their hands in someone’s insta-pants. Politicians promise honesty to their voters, and they are regularly caught with their hands in someone’s money-briefcase. Boyfriends promise fidelity to their boyfriends, and they are regularly caught with their hands in everyone’s Grindr. Social media has made self-control for most human beings nearly impossible. Historians or historical writers can just try to teach their readers how not to repeat certain childish mistakes.


OLIVIER ZAHM — You are well known for working and collaborating with celebrities. What interests you in the celebrity culture?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — The fact that most people need to project or mold their own life onto the life of others in order to be happy is an overwhelming mystery to me. I’m still studying it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — A few years ago, you attempted to displace a church from Italy and install it at MoMA PS1 in New York, but the Italian authorities stopped you and made you bring it back to its original location. Did you have to rebuild it? Were you threatened with jail time? How do you feel about it all, now that some years have gone by?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — I have learned three things: lawyers can be very expensive, never trust a politician, and justice always wins (hopefully).

OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you like about Italy as a place of difference on the artistic global map?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Italy does not have a true art market, so my country and its artists have less money but more freedom.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What is your idea of happiness?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — A nap after glorious sex, a lonely swim at sunset, or a young man sleeping on my chest sucking his thumb without knowing it because he is sleeping.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What is your favorite color?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — The color of nightlife.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What is your favorite flower?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Roses with a heavy scent.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Who are your favorite poets?


OLIVIER ZAHM — Who are your heroes/heroines in fiction?

FRANCESCO VEZZOLI — Countess Olenska in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife.


[Table of contents]

Purple 76 Index issue #29 S/S 2018

Table of contents

Purple Index 76

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