The antique copy reactivated
Contemporary Art | Exhibitions on « the copy » update the question of academicism, the artistic norm of the 17th century, to the cusp of the 20th : teaching and perpetuating frameworks and aesthetic codes from antiquity. The idea of the copy, denigrated in Western modernity, is being restored in the service of a new vision.
According to Salvatore Settis, an archaeological specialist and co-curator of the twin exhibitions Serial Classic and Portable Classic at the Prada Foundation, the copy in art is first and foremost at the service of the creative process. As such, in the Roman era, the scale reduction and serial reproduction of antique works are continually produced to assimilate, rethink and reformulate Greek models : the copyist is a sculptor who, through the understanding and repetition of a gesture, fuses with the author of the model. In the 20th century, Modernity broke with the principles underlying these academic codes in favour of experimentation, the invention of new forms, avant-garde aspirations and a belief in the singularity of the artist. Individualism is the modern master, birthing ideas of originality and the unique as overriding value. Today the internet age is producing new paradigms based on sharing, self-expression, and the participation in mass movements; the search for distinction is becoming derisory as the dissolution of a desire for individual uniqueness increases. A new terrain, favourable to a burgeoning interest in the ancient and classic copy, and tradition in general, is opening up. In London, the exhibition Plaster takes shape over 200 years at the Hepworth Wakefield Museum examines the evolution of forms, casting new light on copies through juxtapositions with contemporary works with no chronological hierarchy, with works unified only by their use of the plaster medium giving a shared impression of fossilization. Jeff Koons’s last works from the Gazing Ball series also evidences an appropriation of the traditional corporeal codes that seem almost innate in the plaster copy. Publicity and cultural public relations generally produce « high visual impact » games when addressing the copy, using antique works or museum copies (see the 2015 Voyage à Nantes campaign)... a step towards bridging time.