Virgil Marti borrowed pieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and put them in strange positions.
The Institute of Contemporary Art in University City has borrowed objects from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and displayed them in ways the PMA never would have done. The Art Museum authorized an artist to use their works in personal and idiosyncratic ways.
Virgil Marti is a Philadelphia installation artist with a wide reputation for turning decorative art on its ear. The Institute of Contemporary Art sent him to the Philadelphia Art Museum’s archives with no precise agenda.
He came back with priceless furniture, statuary, and decorative objects he used to create abstracted scenes from his favorite movies. The 1960 Italian film “L’Adventura” is depicted by a series of poofy ottomans topped with marble busts, including the head of an 18th century Countess – but it’s lying horizontally as if toppled, or in repose. Marti had to ask the Museum’s permission to do that.
“They could have said no – that’s not how she was intended to be displayed and we won’t allow that. It was not meant to be disrespectful – but I wanted them seen in away they would otherwise never be seen.”
The Museum’s deputy director, Alice Beamsderfer, says she wanted to know what Marti’s intentions were with the Countess before agreeing to the loan.
“It’s unusual for us to display a marble bust lying down on its side. We wanted to understand his reasons before saying, yes, that’s great.”
Beamsderfer says the Museum welcomes the fresh approach, which often threw historical context and artistic intent out the window.