“We picked it based on availability and deconsecrate-ability, because you can’t do that to a church that is consecrated; otherwise, you’ll end up in jail or in hell…” That was Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli, speaking to me a few months back for a story that ran in Modern Painters magazine. He was talking about a church in the Italian countryside that he’d selected and was planning to take apart, then rebuild for a show in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 here in New York.
Unfortunately, consecrated or otherwise, the church-relocation plan appears to have backfired, according to a piece in the New York Times. “The deconstruction process had been going on for six months when, in late October, a passer-by wrote to complain to the Ministry of Culture, and the superintendent in charge of the Calabria region blocked it. ‘I got a phone call that I am under criminal investigation,’ Mr. Vezzoli said.”
It remains to be seen if the exhibition at PS1 will soldier on in some modified form, though that seems unlikely. I’ve reached out to Vezzoli for further comment, so stay tuned. Our interest was especially piqued by Klaus Biesenbach’s comment to the Times that the whole debacle “had aspects of a ‘real-time performance’”, though it’s perhaps too optimistic to hope that the legal brouhaha was actually engineered by the infamously irreverent artist himself as some sort of elaborate stunt. Since this is Italy we’re talking about, I’m guessing the truth is more mundane: perhaps Mr. Vezzoli forgot to bribe the right people.