In June 1993 Vanessa Beecroft’s first exhibition featured her work Despair, the so-called “Book of food,” a typewritten listing of all the foods the artist ingested day by day, specifying quantities and colors. On the occasion of this presentation she invited a group of female students from the Accademia di Brera and some girls she had met by chance to appear as a “special public.”
Ten years have passed since this first act of recognition, where Vanessa Beecroft identifies the female image as the essential context for her specific research and invents a specific expressive form, examining questions and obsessions related to the body, beauty and identity.
Her work represents a radical turning point in the history of Performance Art and openly addresses controversial subjects pertaining to contemporary culture, such as the examination of stereotypes, anxiety about multiplicity and the violence of the culture of the image. To date she has created fifty-two performances, numbered consecutively, as she intends for them to be perceived as a whole, making up a single work.
The protagonists of Beecroft’s early performance events are young women, acquaintances or people recruited on the street, dressed in varying fashion to create a strong visual and formal impact, sometimes dominated by a broad chromatic range, but more often monochrome, with a focus above all on the colors red, yellow, pink, white or black. The models are chosen on the basis of their resemblance to precise female typologies, which the artist exposes, initially stressing obsessions of a food-related nature and behavioral disorders, which she also investigates through drawing. There are numerous references to the history of art, particularly to painting; there is also a strong connection to cinema. As time goes on, the performances are created using professional models and people who are close to the artist, with the contribution of make-up artists and hair stylists. In some cases the models do not wear any clothing, but their naked bodies are made up with specific cosmetics that emphasize their pictorial qualities. The artist extends the life of her performances through polaroids or videos, and she uses professional photographers and videomakers, who work alongside her in the creation of additional works that stem from the live event.
The Castello di Rivoli exhibition represents the first time that a broad selection of Beecroft’s work is on view in a single museum context. Videos, photographs and never-before-seen installations emphasize the salient moments of her development and focus on the significance of her most recent investigations.