curated by Hou Hanru, Anne Palopoli
A gigantic expanse of mattresses covering more than 100 square metres, topped by another expanse, identical but overturned to create a padded cave, a narrow space for play or meditation into which the public is invited to climb.
At the entrance, suspended above the heads of the public is a dense web of cushions knotted together and coloured in red and yellow. Intense fragrances are diffused in the air from sculptures of minuscule sofas drenched in perfume. The space is totally rethought, large and small confront one another and the works encourage interaction on the part of the public.
This is the exhibition Paola Pivi. World record, the monographic show that the Musem is dedicating to this surprising artist, winner of a Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Biennale. Whether they are colossal or minuscule pieces, the engaging works of Paola Pivi change the spirit of the place housing them and activate the senses of visitors, subverting the classical confines between public space and intimacy.
World record © Paola Pivi – Photo © Attilio Maranzano – Courtesy the artist
World record, 2018
Mattresses, denim, wood, steel
Courtesy the artist, Massimo De Carlo Milan/London/Hong Kong and Perrotin
World record, a new architecture contained within the museum’s architecture, is at the same time installation, sculpture and inhabitable space. It interacts with the surrounding space and the audience by offering a friendly way of discovering another dimension. This gargantuan, absurd project is yet another way for the artist, who always tries to overcome the limits of the possible, to challenge the way imagination can be rendered concrete. In spite of its size, the artwork maintains a feeling of playfulness, in fact it presents two seas of mattresses, that are separated by a gap of a few feet, a space, which the visitors are invited to explore and activate with their gestures. The laws of space and gravity seem subverted at times. The artwork offers a new point of view on the world by creating an unconventional space that is not high enough for standing, but rather forces the audience to lie down, roll over or crawl. By triggering unusual, playful, carefree and emulative behaviours, the artwork allows the visitors to have fun and establish unexpected interactions.
Share, but it’s not fair, 2012
Cloth, padding, 500 elements
Courtesy the artist and Massimo De Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong
An intertwining of hundreds of cushions hanging in midair, resembling a fluctuating, delicate embroidery, made of knotted soft shapes that create an abstract, three-dimensional motif. All the cushions are red and yellow, made with the fabrics of the robes of Tibetan monks. The intertwining of the single cushions, the precariousness of the hang made by very tiny threads, the lightness, the multiplication and the seriality form a community, where the relationship among the single and the other elements is unique for each of them and at the same time similarly repeated for all of them. The work has an enigmatic title “The title is like the complaint of a child who has been forced to share an ice cream against his will. “Share, but it’s not fair,” says the artist.
Scatola umana, 1994
Plexiglass, 10 x 10 x 9 cm
This artwork is one of the first by the artist, who carried out her studies in the Brera Academy of Milan and in dynamic centres such as Viafarini in the ‘90s. In those years, Italian art was renovating itself by adopting a new formal resolution involving attention for objects and attraction to the space beyond artworks. Scatola umana is a plexiglass sculpture of just a few centimetres that seems to contain the essence of the artist’s future work and creativity, which afterwards expanded freely in the use of many languages, media and expressions. Similarly to a monad, a sort of unit of measurement for the world, it is as if the artwork could “potentially” contains the whole, while its appearance is neutral, minimal, abstract: it is a small, geometric, transparent cube that contains and reflects upon the possibilities of space, as well as the modalities to recreate, represent and modify it. The artwork anticipates the elementary and the univocal nature of the future works of the artist, by presenting space as it is, devoid of embellishments, references or interpretations. It is the starting point for a recurring element of the artist’s future production, based on her mathematical mind, which is accustomed to thinking in terms of size, weight and volume.
Untitled (gold sofa), 1999
Sofà, perfume Shalimar Guerlain, 22 × 27 × 50 cm
Collection Gemma De Angelis Testa
Untitled (gold and pink sofa-bed), 1999
Sofà, perfume, 21 × 41 × 46 cm
Courtesy Massimo De Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong
The works, produced between 1998 and 2001, testify to the emergence of design in the Italian art of the ‘90s. They consist of accurate miniature reproductions of sofas that are soaked in perfume, which dilates their presence into space and makes them more precious. The artworks, with their dripping liquid, undergo over time a metamorphosis of their appearance, which is at the same time ironic and seductive. Paola Pivi’s sofas cease to be intimate, personal, familiar pieces of furniture symbolising comfort and routine and become precious collector’s items. They lose their functionality, but keep their formal look. The space occupied by the artwork is modified by its change in scale, which, direct and sharp, reveals the playfulness of the artist’s mind.
Did you know I am single?, 2010
Synthetic fur, plastic, paint, resin, 25 x 280 x 244 cm
The representation of the interaction between the human and the animal world is a recurring feature in the artistic research of Paola Pivi, who has been living in Alaska, a land where the dialogue between man and nature is authentic, since 2006. Did you know I am single? is reminiscent of the typical hunting trophy, the bearskin, but it is made of synthetic fur, as if the artwork were the result of a paradoxical game. By using a synthetic material other than the original, the artist enables the object to take on a meaning that is different from that of a real fur carpet, which is a metaphor for the supremacy of man over nature: the reference to stuffed toy animals makes this artwork ironic and playful, while maintaining its melancholic and dramatic side. On the other hand, the artwork provokes the sense of wonder evoked by the taxidermy animals presented as case studies in 19th-century natural history museums. Despite the synthetic materials used, there remains a sense of familiarity between the audience and the bearskin, which seems to have been just removed from a wall above a fireplace. This image, sometimes a status symbol, is part of the collective imagery.
Very fuzzy, 2019
Wood, steel, aluminium, motor, peacock feathers, diam. 195 cm
Courtesy the artist and Perrotin
These artworks are part of a series produced by the artist starting from 2016, exhibited for the first time at Dallas Contemporary in Dallas. Bicycle wheel spin at constant speed while hanging on the wall, decorated with various kinds of feathers, thereby creating a hypnotic effect. These kinetic artworks create a wave with the movement of the feathers and remind us of large rotating dreamcatchers. The choreography of the feathered wheels seems conceived for a carnival party. It generates a playful but silent atmosphere, that hinders the perception of the passing of time. The artworks creates wonder with their unusual juxtaposition of objects that lose their everyday function in order to acquire new meaning, allowing for the audience’s own interpretation. A reference for these artworks is Marcel Duchamp’s renowned “ready-made,” in comparison to which, these wheels are more sensorial, magnetic and playful in nature by the addition of feathers and movement.