If ever the notion of female nudity was subverted into a display of disdainful indifference, it is most certainly with Vanessa Beecroft with a series of mathematically indexed performances bearing her initials.

  • Supposedly conceived in the spur of the moment in 1993 with VB1, when Vanessa Beecroft then a student of the academy of Fine arts of Brera asked 30 women, fellow students and street cast strangers, to circle around the Book of Food, a journal chronicling every bit of the preceding decade, the VB series have grown into a tessellated self portrait of the artist spanning almost a quarter of a century.

  • Born to an Italian mother and British father, raised among the rolling hills of Northern Italy in an inclement familial context, Vanessa Beecroft’s life was lived from one verge to the next. Some would have gazed into this voided space, looking for answers. this dichotomy between inside and out, naked and not, acceptance and rejection became the kindling to the conceptual artist’s fire.

  • Hers is a take on bodies is maverick bordering on self destruction: Lined up, classified by skin tone in the manner of a human Pantone; whitened by clay in the manner of classical works (VB62, Palermo, 2008); darkened and slashed with bloody, scarlet paint; glamorously perched on high heels but without a stitch of cloth save for sheer hose (VB55, Berlin, 2005); inspired by a photograph of refugees fleeing a humanitarian quagmire but recycled into the most watched art performance (yeezy Season 3, New york, 2016).

  • Ruthless in vision, callous in execution, Beecroft’s exhibitions impose the clash of two vulnerable bodies: the nude body and the equally naked eye. No wonder fashion was enthralled, long before her performances for Tod’s or Yeezy. Its fascination with the female body mirrored her own, and it wasn’t long before the beautiful and stylish artist began collaborating with houses that were eager to get their clothes on her, or her cast. Clothes always seemed an integral part of the performance, even as they began to shrink away into oblivion in Beecroft’s VBs. Impeccable credentials in clothes, Tom Ford’s Gucci, Helmut Lang, Dolce & Gabbana or Prada, ertainly helped cement the relationship.

  • If nudity is the catalyst, fashion is its foil, giving the artist an industry’s worth of subtext to wield in her tableaux. More importantly: neither wants the focus to rest solely on clothes, on things. the inclusion of VB74 in the Bellissima fashion exhibition held in 2015 at the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome’s MAXXI further cemented her place at the meniscus between fashion and flesh, garment and meaning.

Narcisse Magazine - Issue 6