August 13, 2014. Filed: Exhibitions
In collaboration with Rolls-Royce, Starkwhite will present an exhibition by Australian artist Michael Zavros at the Melbourne Art Fair from 13-17 August (Booth C103). It’s a show with a novel point of difference, combining still life paintings with a performance featuring a Rolls-Royce Wraith and Australia’s superstar models the Stenmark twins.
The suite of paintings includes a still life featuring stems of gladioli flowers arranged in a vase and inverted to resemble an octopus. A Rolls-Royce takes a similar approach with standard poodles arranged to conjure up a classic Rolls-Royce. Witty in their allusions to art history, these new works are a melange of baroque and pop influences. They also provide an exhibition setting for Forty, an artist-directed performance using a Wraith displayed as a readymade artwork, set to take the stage as a performer along with Zac and Jordan Stenmark.
The performance marks a moment in time. Three days after the fair closes Zavros will turn 40, a milestone he has chosen to mark with flair. The models will offer chocolate gold coins embossed with the artist’s signature monogram and birth date, seemingly eternally sourced from the Rolls-Royce to an assembled audience. The chocolates will appear in abundance and be proffered, with quiet ceremony, as a gift.
Age is the enemy of youth and beauty; still life painting is the very evocation of time stilled. Embedded in the performance and in the mien of the beautiful men offering these sweet morsels is the acknowledgement of time’s inexorable movement. Unlike painting, which will endure and cheat the passage of time, the nature of performance is fleeting and temporary.
Zavros is an aesthete: He paints beautiful things beautifully. His subjects include fairytale palaces, gardens and follies; up-market men’s fashion, luxury cars and jewellery; Lipizzaner dressage horses and Japanese pedigree onagadori chickens. It is often said that his subject is beauty itself, but it is more generally the symbols of status. His canon of beauty is aspirational – keyed to notions of privilege, tradition and the faux-aristocratic taste of luxury brands.
Brand Zavros is a perfect fit with Rolls-Royce’s brand values of ultimate perfection and sophisticated luxury – the legendary ‘best car in the world’ that delivers a ride likened to wafting along on a magic carpet. The two brands will come together at one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art events, in a way that allows the artist to break new ground. Through the creative collaboration with Rolls-Royce, Zavros is able to transcend the traditional notion of the art fair booth as a space to present art groomed for the art market, with a new move: a performance work reflecting his interest in art and luxury that raises questions about value. He says: “Art’s value has shifted. These days, people discuss art’s commodity value rather than its merit value. There are endless articles about the art market bubble and astonishing prices at auction. But for me, art is everything and nothing.”
A new publication on the work of Michael Zavros will be available at the Melbourne Art Fair. Published this year by Starkwhite, it includes writing by Robert Leonard, chief curator at the City Gallery Wellington, and an interview with the artist conducted by Rhana Devenport, director of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.
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