Conceptual artist Serkan Özkaya made David (inspired by Michelangelo), a double-size, golden replica of Michelangelo’s David, for the 9th International Istanbul Biennial in 2005. Days prior to the opening of the Biennial, the sculpture collapsed shortly after installation. After the collapse, the artist restored the damaged replica and cast two additional copies, one of which was acquired by 21c Museum in 2010. In 2011, 21c commissioned the 30-foot-tall sculpture’s journey from Istanbul to Louisville, stopping first in the entry port of New York City. In New York, Özkaya’s sculpture was driven through the streets of Manhattan before parking overnight at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, where 21c Museum hosted a panel discussion about the use of doubles in art with a group of art critics and architectural theorists. Hundreds of publications, news stations, and blogs covered the story of David (inspired by Michelangelo)’s travels in Manhattan, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Examiner.com, Reuters TV, Getty Images, and others.
His visit to Manhattan was a brief but significant: Florence is home to Michelangelo’s David; New York, at least since the mid-twentieth century, is Florence’s equivalent, the cultural capital of the western world. Moreover, Özkaya’s replicated work—made of fiberglass and spray painted gold, like tourist-shop knickknacks and tchotkes sold on street corners everywhere—addresses the issue of value, both economic and artistic. How do we assess the value of an artwork (or its double), in the marketplace, in the art-historical canon, in our own subjective experiences? As both cultural epicenter and world financial hub, New York was the ideal inaugural venue. As a three-part performance, the journey connects Istanbul, New York, and Louisville through their evolving cultural legacies: great art and provocative ideas become globally accessible through connected, innovative urban interventions.
Marcel Duchamp, the grandfather of conceptual art, introduced appropriation nearly a century ago, turning found objects (a urinal, a bicycle wheel) into works of art. Generations of conceptual artists have followed his lead, transforming both household and industrial items as well as existing artworks and texts into new objects of contemplation and provocation. Serkan Özkaya’s strategic appropriation is a compellingly complex and very contemporary practice: his David (inspired by Michelangelo) pays homage not only to the original masterpiece, but to its cultural legacy and to its technological evolution through reproduction in a vast array of sizes and materials over the last five centuries. To create his version of what he calls “the greatest masterpiece,” Özkaya copied not the marble sculpture, but a 3-D model rendered in code by Stanford University professor Marc Levoy. A team of six worked for six months building David (inspired by Michelangelo), pixel by pixel, in steel and fiberglass. What is conceptual art in the age of digital reproduction? In this case, the appropriation combines new technology with iconography in a thought-provoking exploration of two cornerstones of conceptual art, value and authenticity. Özkaya notes, “I wanted to use the potential of the 3D model to recreate the most precious man-made object; one which I had never seen for myself. I took the liberty to imagine it twice as tall and in gold. The realization of David (inspired by Michelangelo) has been a multi-step process: first it was executed and erected, and it then collapsed in Istanbul. After being rebuilt in Turkey, 21c Museum arranged its recent transfer to New York, and then home to Louisville.”
David (inspired by Michelangelo) and its collapse are featured in Danila Cahen’s film, Friendly Enemies (2010). The process is also documented in the 340-page Rise and Fall and Rise of David (inspired by Michelangelo), published by 21c Museum and Yapi Kredi (2011). A new documentary featuring the journey David (inspired by Michelangelo) undertook from Turkey to Kentucky will be released by 21c Museum in 2012.
The realization of this ambitious, multi-faceted project is emblematic of 21c Museum’s support of visionary contemporary artists. The 21c collection includes several other works by Özkaya, including a sculpture, Baker’s Dozen, and a site-specific installation, A Sudden Gust of Wind, both of which have been featured in Proof on Main. The artist realized another of his most ambitious works in Louisville in 2009, when he was invited by Louisville-based public art organization artwithoutwalls to collaborate with the Louisville Courier-Journal to create Today Could Be A Day of Historical Importance. For that project, Özkaya hand-drew the front page of the April 10, 2009 newspaper, which was then printed and distributed as a limited-edition work of art to over 200,000 readers.
21c Museum is grateful to the city of Louisville for supporting 21c’s mission to share outstanding works of art from all over the world with the public through exhibitions and programs that integrate contemporary art into daily life.
About the artist
Serkan Özkaya (b. 1973, Istanbul, Turkey) is a contemporary conceptual artist whose work deals with topics of appropriation and reproduction, and typically operates outside of traditional art spaces. Özkaya lives in New York City. He holds a Ph. D in German Language and Literature from Istanbul University and an M.F.A. from Bard College, New York.
Özkaya’s latest works include Spaghetti Chair, made from fifteen sticks of spaghetti; David (inspired by Michelangelo), made from a 3D rendering program at two-times the size of the original; a site-specific sculpture called A Sudden Gust of Wind, simulating the sudden and unexpected scattering of papers; the hand-rendering of newspapers including the Turkish daily Radikal, and the front page of the Louisville Courier-Journal; and a contribution to a walking museum, Atlas, wherein Özkaya constructed a rock to be strapped to the curator’s back and promenaded daily throughout the streets of New York. Özkaya is the author of nine books, including Genius and Creativity in the Arts: Schoenberg, Adorno and Thomas Mann (Pan Publications, Istanbul, 2000), It’s Not What it Looks Like! I Can Explain (Baglam Publications, Istanbul, 2003), Today Could Be a Day of Historical Importance (artwithoutwalls, Louisville, 2010), and The Rise and Fall and Rise of David (inspired by Michelangelo) (21c Museum and Yapi Kredi, Louisville, 2011).