As an anthropology and art history student, I’m no stranger to museums—but the “24 h Museum,” presented by Prada and designed by Francesco Vezzoli with AMO, is like nothing I've ever seen before. Actually, it's kind of like the antithesis of the typical museum, constructed to house esteemed objects for an indefinite eternity. This pop-up museum, housed in the Palais d’Iéna, where the Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2012 show was held, challenges not only our notions of classical art, but also our notions of what defines a museum.
The central space is a church nave-inspired cage constructed of pink fluorescent lights. Within the “temple” are eleven lit-up statues —creating an effect that is slightly campy and slightly holy at the same time. Vezzoli highlights contemporary divas that represent contrasting visions of femininity, such as Courtney Love (clutching her breasts, natch) and Natalie Portman, and places them—literally—on marble pedestals. Alluding directly to the convergence of religion and culture, Vezzoli places a fluorescent haloed Virgin (fashioned after his own mother) and Child in the center of the space.
The next part of the exhibit is a giant concrete staircase, where a red carpet leads up to a nude winged female statue that has her most interesting regions covered by the Facebook “Like” button. Vezzoli built this entire exhibition as a parody of a Baroque feast, subjugating classical theatricality and grandeur to gaudy—but I would argue, elegant in its own right—contemporary culture, such as disco and social media.
My favorite part of the “24 h Museum,” however, was the Salon des Refusés, inspired by mysterious museum archives closed off to the public. Accessed with curtains of green velvet, one is transported onto a disco dance floor, complete with a DJ set that looks like a sarcophagus. Vezzoli wanted to bring color back to the concept of the museum, noting that ancient artifacts, like Greco-Roman marble statues, lose their original vibrant colors after hundreds of years.
Throughout the exhibit, references to temporality and the passing of time were present--though discreet. The halo of Madonna statue was actually a 24-hour clock, counting down until the end of the exhibit. Classical sculpture combined with contemporary motifs and symbols in a direct clash of history—mirroring the discordance of permanence and destruction in all museums. Vezzoli notes that once the exhibit is closed, the statues “will exist as special artworks, as ruins of a lost moment. Mementos of a unique, unrepeatable museum project.”
Aware of our blasphemy, my friend and I took some photos of ourselves “worshipping” at the altar of modern-day goddesses. May Courtney Love hear our prayers and bless us with a lifetime of perfectly smeared red lipstick and Prada.