New York does a David Double-Take

East, Midwest
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
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The face of David (inspired by Michelangelo) by Serkan Ozkaya. (Branden Klayko)

The face of David (inspired by Michelangelo) by Serkan Ozkaya. (Branden Klayko)

In the hustle and bustle of city life, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to visit a museum. Luckily for time-strapped New Yorkers, a massive copy of Michelangelo’s David was trucked around Manhattan on Tuesday, stopping off at the Storefront for Art and Architecture for a manifesto series called “Double” exploring the implications of creating copies, fakes, and replicas before heading to its new home at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. This David, by conceptual artist Serkan Ozkaya is a copy of a copy of the original Florentine model, reimagined twice as tall and painted gold, making it the perfect centerpiece for the evening.

David (inspired by Michelangelo) at the Storefront for Art & Architecture. (Branden Klayko)

David (inspired by Michelangelo) at the Storefront for Art & Architecture. (Branden Klayko)

Ozkaya’s David (inspired by Michelangelo) was originally destined for the 2005 Istanbul Biennial, built of foam from a 3-D digital scan of the original statue by a professor at Stanford. At the time Ozkaya delighted in the notion of copying a work of art without ever having seen the original. After six months of construction, though, the 30-foot-tall David collapsed. Two fiberglass replicas were fashioned from the remains of the original copy, of which Louisville’s David is one.

Bringing art into the streets has been somewhat of an obsession for 21c founders Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown and their chief curator Alice Gray Stites. Outside of their own museum, the three also run Art Without Walls (AWW), bringing art to the streets of Louisville and into the daily lives of its citizens. AWW previously brought Ozkaya to Louisville to hand-render the front page of the city’s daily newspaper, the Courier-Journal.

At the 21c, Wilson, Brown, and Stites like to push the boundaries of 21st century art, often provoking self-reflection. “Our projects might come up with a better feeling for acceptance and tolerance,” Wilson said. “Today we were very successful. I was quoted saying ‘penis’ in the New York Times.” Similarly, Ozkaya is pushing the boundaries of authorship with the double David.

Reactions to work selected for the 21c tend to draw strong reactions, and that was the case on Tuesday as the statue made its way through the city. The day got to an eventful start when the driver took the wrong toll lane on the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, requiring the trailer to back up and causing quite a traffic situation. “A policeman came up—very angry,” said Wilson. “I think he was provoked by the nakedness he saw.” In front of Storefront, however, crowds gathered in stunned amusement, cellphone cameras in hand.

While cameras continued to flash into the night, Ozkaya and a panel of architects and theorists including curator and writer Christopher Eamon, architect Cristina Goberna of Fake Industries, P.S.1 founder and director of the Clocktower Gallery Alanna Heiss, Princeton professor Spyros Papapetros, Hyperallergic editor Hrag Vartanian, and architect and theorist Ines Weizman gathered in front of a packed house to discuss the “Double.” The panel gave context to the concept copying, from the endless iterations of Greek temples to Andy Warhol hiring his own double to stand in for him at events. ”In 2012, this is one of the most original practices as a methodology of engaging with the history that lies behind us,” Storefront director Eva Franch noted.

Before any manifesto was delivered, however, an internet clip was shown from Hennesy Youngman where two David statuettes spray-painted black and yellow were transformed into a work of art in a matter of minutes. “The easy part is makin’ it,” Youngman noted. “The hard part is giving it cultural context.”

Now, after a brief visit to the Armory Show, David (inspired by Michelangelo) is on its way home to Louisville where it will be displayed atop a 15-foot-tall pedestal in a high-traffic area of downtown near the 21c Museum Hotel. And if you’re wondering what Wilson told the Times, there’s a souvenir necklace recalling the famous modesty of the replica David at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. “We’re producing a necklace” with two pendants, Wilson said. “One is the fig lead and one is the penis. They’re on order.”

A short film by Squaring Off from MyBlockNYC.

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