Nine times out of 10, when somebody talks about the theft en masse of humanity’s most hallowed masterpieces, it’s in the context of 20th-century Europe. And that one other time? They might just be describing artist Sebastian Errazuriz, whose next exhibition, “What You Destroy We Will Rebuild”, opens at David Gill Gallery in London on June 1.
Maybe “theft” is a harsh word—but Errazuriz doesn’t shy away from like terms. “I use technology to ‘steal’ classical sculptures I have revered since childhood,” he explains. It’s a colloquial characterization of his tech-heavy process, which starts by 3D-scanning Greek and Roman statues from renowned museums. The scans are digitally manipulated, then reimagined and re-cast into functional furniture.
Once the original form is in his hands, he’s not afraid to do a little damage. In Bust, a figure’s face is hollowed out and fitted with a lightbulb. Illuminated, the piece makes for a chilling reading light, though in Errazuriz’s philosophy, its fractured quality is what fosters the most intrigue. “Many of the sculptures we have learned to love are broken and fragmented," he says. "Would they be as mysterious and fascinating to us if we could see them in their pristine original appearance?” We can only assume this is a rhetorical question—judging from his body of work, Errazuriz already knows the answer.