Clone, doppelgänger, reflection? Sturtevant is one of the great enigmas of the art scene. For half a century she has challenged the meaning of art and what it entails to be an artist. Her legendary repetitions of works by Warhol, Duchamp, Beuys and others were groundbreaking, and her work continues to be exceedingly poignant in our digital era of abundance, copies, clones and increasingly complex issues concerning commodities and copyright.
The exhibition Sturtevant: Image over Image at Moderna Museet allows her oeuvre to display its full range. The presence of Sturtevant’s works becomes nearly site-specific in six of the 18 rooms that are usually dedicated to the permanent collection. The artists whose works she has repeated largely overlap with the history of Moderna Museet and its unique collection of Marcel Duchamp, American pop art and minimalism. Moderna Museet also has a history of confronting authenticity – from important replicas to the project Museum of the Fakes which was shown within the exhibition She – A Cathedral in 1966, and the now internationally infamous Brillo boxes. Curator of the exhibition Fredrik Liew says:
“Sturtevant is a pioneer who, at the age of 82, is at the height of her career. She was ridiculed when she made her debut in 1965, and no one at the time made the links between her work and a critical discussion of surface, product, copyright and autonomy. Nor did anyone consider what it could mean that a woman artist was repeating the works of male colleagues. But then, her repetitions came before Barthes, Foucault, Deleuze, Millet and Greer had published their seminal works on these subjects.”
Since 2000, Sturtevant has made several video installations in which she combines mass media images with her own filmed material in a collage-like format. These works emphasise how her oeuvre extends beyond the internal affairs of the art scene. Sturtevant’s harsh and critical gaze is aimed at a lazy society that is increasingly made up of superficiality and experience industry. As Sturtevant herself comments:
“What is currently compelling is our pervasive cybernetic mode, which plunks copyright into mythology, makes origins a romantic notion, and pushes creativity outside the self. Remake, reuse, reassemble, recombine – that’s the way to go.”
The exhibition Sturtevant: Image over Image features 30 works, including her repetitions of Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns and Félix González-Torres, and four of her most recent major video installations. The artist has produced no less than four works specifically for this exhibition – among them a series of repetitions of Marcel Duchamp’s Fresh Widow in the Moderna Museet collection.
Sturtevant was awarded the Golden Lion for her lifetime achievement in art at the Venice Biennale in 2011.