Le Mépris, 2015
The image in this painting is a unique shot of a cult house, i.e. the villa that Italian writer Curzio Malaparte (1898-1957) had built on the island of Capri by architect Adalberto Libera between 1938 and 1943, where he lived and wrote The Skin [La pelle in Italian, 1949], which is also the title of our exhibition at Palazzo Grassi. Jean-Luc Godard shot Contempt (1963) in this spectacular villa, with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli, a film inspired by Albert Moravia’s eponymous novel Il disprezzo. Like many movie lovers, Luc Tuymans considers Contempt [Le Mépris in French] to be one of the greatest films ever made even though he said his painting is more about the feeling of contempt than about the film. “There are so many elements in this film: mythology with the Greek sculptures; France’s three-color flag, even though Godard is Swiss, and Curzio Malaparte, the megalomaniac Italian writer who claimed he had personally built his villa when he actually had an architect do it,” said Tuymans. In this painting, we see a fireplace, but we also notice the window behind. Apart from the title, nothing tells us we are in Malaparte’s villa where, in reality, each window opens on an enchanting Mediterranean landscape. Here, on the contrary, there is no luxury or spectacular views, only a massive fireplace without a fire and a window to nowhere, perhaps a metaphor of the extinguished love leading to nowhere that Bardot and Piccoli experience in the film. The colors remind of the simple architectural style of the villa and of its raw materials, such as wood. But given the famous images of Jean- Luc Godard’s film and the singular history of this house, which is both legendary and modernist as sought by the writer and the architect, the painting is deceptive.