Ozkaya’s ‘David’ Arrives at 21C

Just in time to welcome Derby guests, 21C Museum Hotel’s over-sized version of Michelangelo’s David was installed on the corner of Main and Seventh streets today. He rolled in on the back of a truck and stood up onto his 8-foot pedestal with the help of a crane. He stands three stories tall, and his gold paint gleams in the bright May sun.

“David (inspired by Michelangelo)” is the work of Turkish conceptual artist Serkan Ozkaya. It joins 21C’s collection and will be on long-term display outside of the downtown museum.

21C curator Alice Gray Stites says Ozkaya’s statue is more than a giant eye-catching replica of a masterpiece. It’s a source of public engagement with the ideas behind the art.

“He’s raising questions about how do we define value, economic value and artistic value, what is an authentic art experience, what is our relationship to our own cultural legacy, what is it going forward, and what is iconography?” says Stites.

Ozkaya grew up in Istanbul and had never seen Michelangelo’s sculpture in Florence, so he decided to make one for himself. Once he made his twice as large, he says he couldn’t help but paint it gold. Ozkaya doesn’t deny what he calls “the kitsch factor” of his piece.

“Everything is fake. It’s a copy, not an original, and it’s not gold, it’s only painted, like actual paint,” says Ozkaya. “It’s a certain dynamic that I really love, this dynamic of something being worthless and priceless, between garbage and the masterpiece.”

Ozkaya also wants his work to be displayed in nontraditional environments–like a street corner in Louisville–where the displacement creates added layers of meaning.

“Once they are utilized in a social situation, then the environment, the habitat they generate, becomes an environment for art and for people to interact with it,” he says.

That fits with 21C’s mission to find innovative ways to bring contemporary art into everyday life.

“We love seeing how people connect, enjoy, talk about and learn through the art that’s within the galleries, throughout the restaurant and in the hotel,” says Stites. “It’s a natural extension of that mission, to bring the art programming outside into downtown Louisville, into the public realm.”

And it’s working. Sharon Marcum, a local artist, works downtown and came out to see the installation.

“To draw inspiration from, if not copy, the work of somebody who’s so well-known and and then make it your own is a pretty daring thing to do, but I think it was very well-executed and I’m really excited to see it installed,” says Marcum.

A crowd of third-graders from Tully Elementary stumbled across the installation while on a field trip downtown. Chaperone Marchelle Joseph is excited for the kids to have the opportunity to witness David’s arrival, even if they have a slightly different appreciation for the work.

“My grandson seemed to think maybe he needed underwear,” says Joseph.

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