The concept of détournement in art hints at the possibility of hijacking something well-known to most ordinary people. Originally developed in the '50s by the Letterist International, the concept was later on adopted and adapted by the Situationist International and often employed for political pranks in later years.
One of the key points for a successful détournement is to employ something really familiar with your audience, so that people can easily read into the messages you're trying to spread.
In a way détournement can also be used as a parody in which original works are employed to create new and more subversive pieces.
Italian artist Fabio Viale mainly employs this technique for his sculptures: his work "Star Gate" may look like a futuristic architectural structure, maybe recreating a section of a spaceship, but it is actually the result of two recombined stacklable plastic boxes of the type used to carry fruit and vegetable, reproduced in gigantic size and in marble.
Viale often combines classical sculptures with modern tattoos: the statue "Laocoön and His Sons" is for example radically reinterpreted by the artist. The snakes and Laocoön's sons are removed from the scene and Laocoön's body is covered in intricate tattoos replicating Giovanni di Modena's paintings inspired by Dante's Inferno, that seem to highlight his muscular and toned body; the same fate awaits Canova's "Italic Venus", whose back is also covered in intricate floral tattoos.
Quite often simple and ordinary objects are elevated to the realm of the extraordinary and vice versa, so that a simple drywall anchor becomes a 2-metre-tall vertical sculpture, a sort of phallic rocket, while the giant finger of the Colossus of Constantine (as seen at the Capitoline Museums in Rome) becomes a joke since it is resized and reproduced in polystyrene.
Most of Viale's works feed off visual illusions, misperceptions, juxtapositions and contrasts, "La Suprema" represents for example traditional cheap wooden fruit crates but made of marble.
Viale is currently having his moment since he has a solo exhibition comprising eleven large scale works at the Glyptothek Museum in Munich that extends into the Königslpatz, where his "Laocoön" welcomes visitors. Detached from the Vatican Museums where the original statue is preserved, Viale's piece is employed here to reclaim a more urban and modern space.
At the same time his "Infinito", a black marble sculpture representing two intertwined tyres is on display at the Battistero del Duomo in Pietrasanta, Italy (6th August to 30th September 2018).
Though the urban sculpture does not look very religious, it actually hints at wedding rings and therefore at the union of two people, at procreation and at christening, so that the baptistery ends up being the perfect place for this artwork.
Viale has also got an exhibition divided in two spaces of the Galleria Poggiali in Pietrasanta (until 17th August): in the main gallery spaces (via Garibaldi 8) it is possible to admire "Kouros", a white marble bust covered in tattoos inspired by Russian criminal gangs (very apt for the times we're living in...), while at the Ex-Fonderia d'arte Luigi Tommasi (Via Marconi, 48) there is an exhibition comprising other assorted works by Viale.
Critics may deem Viale's works as not extremely original maybe, but the artist's passion for combining modern objects and trends such as tires and tattoos with classical pieces, may help revamping the interest of a younger generation of people (and of Instagram fans in particular...) for classical art (you wonder why Viale still hasn't collaborated with Gucci's Alessandro Michele on the sets of a catwalk show, maybe in future?).