For its 30th anniversary, the Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art presents a new entry in its collection: the monumental installation Triumph by Aleksandra Mir, shown for the first time in Italy. Triumph, completed in 2009 and exhibited that same year at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, and in 2012 at the South London Gallery in London, is a spectacular installation by Aleksandra Mir composed of 2.529 trophies collected by the artist across the span of a year in Sicily, in the city of Palermo and its vicinity.
The cups in the installation, dated from the 1940s onward, were gathered by means of an advertisement in Il Giornale di Sicilia in which the artist offered the symbolic sum of five euros for each trophy. The outcome of the initiative is an enormous, sparkling collection of keepsakes whose individual stories have been lost: a monument to youth and bygone glories, to the culture of amateur sport and the legacy of Italian popular history.
Produced on an industrial scale, the trophies are objects of little intrinsic value, but of great emotional value for those who won them in the context of competition and raised them to the Gods, re-enacting a falsely believed ancient ritual, the product of modern sports culture appropriating the Church’s silver chalices. The striking contradiction between mass production and the nostalgic fetishism of the individual trophy culminates, long after the moment of glory has passed and the trophy has collected dust in the winners garage for many years, in the cathartic gesture of giving the memento of victory to the artist, as if to break free of a burden.
Sweat and effort, joy and deep sentiment, applause and celebration, reflected on the surface of these trophies, become faint, distant echoes in the exhibition, cumulatively conveyed by piles of inert metal, plastic and marble. Triumph is a true memento mori, a visual document of the transient nature of success and the need of all human beings, at some point in their lives, to come to terms with the past, abandoning the illusion of eternal youth.