“Don’t ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly what you are.” This, in a nutshell, sums up the philosophy of celebrated entertainer Lady Gaga, who was in Greece for a concert a few months ago. Now she is the subject of a series of video portraits created by acclaimed American stage director and artist Bob Wilson which are on display at the Bernier/Eliades Gallery in central Athens.
This is one of the capital’s galleries that has taught local audiences what contemporary art is all about and which continues to surprise with big names even when the going is tough.
So what happens when two artists who revel in bold experimentation work together? As we know from Wilson’s earlier video portraits, the American artist condenses fragments of art history by marrying famous personalities with famed artworks.
Lady Gaga makes the perfect heroine for these portraits as she is a performer whose persona is in constant transformation. The portraits on display in Athens were filmed in October 2013 in London and were unveiled a month later at the Louvre in Paris as part of Wilson’s “Living Rooms” exhibition.
That show was the result of a unique partnership between the museum, the director and the singer. The initiative shows that museums today, however famous, like to boost their popularity with initiatives that illustrate they are active rather than passive players in developments.
For the series, Wilson was inspired by the classical pieces in the Louvre’s permanent collection: “Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere” (1806) by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “The Death of Marat” (1793) by Jacques Louis David and “Head of the Baptist in a Silver Charger” (1507) by Andrea Solari. The fourth portrait, titled “Flying,” is not based on a work in the museum’s collection but, rather, on a contemporary piece referencing the ancient Japanese art of bondage known as shibari.
Athens audiences can also see how Wilson and Lady Gaga worked together on the project in a making-of film about the process of shooting “Flying.” Wilson dictates every move, every element of the landscape and every nuance of the lighting. The performer, however, knows how to follow directions.
Texas-born Wilson is widely considered one of the greatest living art figures as he has succeeded in producing a successful marriage between different genres of art to create a new and original narrative. He has altered modern perceptions of the opera, where he has worked with great composers like Philip Glass, and redefined the term avant-garde.
Bernier/Eliades Gallery, 11 Eptachalkou, Thiseio, tel 210.341.3935, bernier-eliades.gr. “Robert Wilson: Video Portraits of Lady Gaga” runs through May 14.