For what is a man profited, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Perhaps this is one question that could be asked of any billionaire art collector. In The House of The Nobleman, artist Wolfe von Lenkiewicz examines our relationship to art and the role of the supposedly worldly or noble collector from a non-judgemental critical distance, and exhibits art both old and new (from Manet and Cézanne to The Chapmans and Damien Hirst) in a show that promises to prove contentious. Here, Lenkiewicz’s own “resequenced” Picassos will be exhibited against their original counterparts, effectively folding art history in upon itself to create an entirely new kind of dialogue. Dazed Digital went down to his studio to talk nobility, history and the reasons why a lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost.
Dazed Digital: What is the concept that informs The House Of The Nobleman?
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz: When I started to plan the exhibition with the co-curator Victoria Golembiovskaya (by whom I was fascinated because she was instrumental in manoeuvring a submarine in the grand canal in Venice), I began to think about the notion of quality in the 21st century as opposed to the set of values pursued by Marsilio Ficino. The dislocation and decertification of a stable position in the world, which was formally the aristocrat, the king… the noble man. The artist, being perceived at the centre, was seen as a God, and within Ptolemaic concentric rings one moved from dog, to angel, to God. This is a hierarchical linear model, which has been attractive for five centuries in one form or another. The idea of this show is to explore a post-humanist form of compassion – the world is dynamically changing, and no matter how flexible our map may be to quantify it, we will be in an eternal struggle with meaning.
DD: How do you feel about exhibiting your resequenced Picassos next to the originals?
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz: Picasso was a collector – he collected women, he collected Modigliani and Cezanne, he collected brick-a-brack. He shorted artwork like a trader in order to strengthen his portfolio. I have simply shorted Picasso. As an artist, I use as my material and resources the imagery of other artworks. This is so I can manoeuvre the raw material of the originals into proximity – the dialogue between these works is very important to me as they may cross-pollinate, and then there will be unexpected associations ocurring between them.
DD: Can you talk to us a little about your ongoing fascination with Disney, and the work in which you have depicted Pinnochio molesting Dora Maar?
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz: The work is called Paradise Island. Pinocchio is not real. He’s not flesh and blood and cannot die until he becomes real, then he is mortal. The myth is similar to that of Pygmalion, when marble becomes flesh and flesh, of course, is there to be ravaged, as is happening here. In short, the work is the 21st century Death And The Maiden. Dora Maar was Picasso's projection on to ‘Guernica’. Her tears water the killing fields. This painting is a collision of styles that accommodate each other like one virus supporting another.
DD: How do you feel you are evolving as an artist?
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz: I don't like the world evolve. When one plays a game it could be said that the game evolves in an interesting way. Someone wins and someone loses. So, in some way a battle can evolve such as Napoleon's at Waterloo. Wellington once said, ‘There is one worse thing than losing a battle, and that's winning a battle.’ I don't set out from a point to reach to another.