If you (see me, see me, see me)

Artist James Bantone takes us through his UGG Salone Del Mobile exhibition
By Barry Pierce | Art | 18 April 2024

It’s spring in Milan. Finally, you can leave the jacket at home, pick up a takeaway Negroni at Bar Basso, and head to Salone Del Mobile, the city’s annual furniture fair. A far less hectic but equally as important fixture on the Milanese calendar as Fashion Week, Salone Del Mobile sees the world’s design houses descend on the Northern Italian city for a week-long fair that is now in its 62nd edition. Though the worlds of fashion and design had been distinctly separate for many years, practically every major fashion brand now exhibits at Salone, from Loewe to Hermès to Thom Browne.

For the first time at Salone Del Mobile this year, the legendary shoewear brand UGG joined the roster, commissioning a bespoke installation from the Geneva-born artist James Bantone. Bantone works across several artistic forms, his oeuvre consists of sculpture, printwork, photography, and even clothing. “I tried to paint,” Bantone tells us as we walk around his UGG-commissioned works, “but I’m really not a painter.”

James Bantone

His installation at Salone is titled If you (see me, see me, see me) and consists of several large metal canvases, backed on supports, upon which images of human legs and mannequin legs wearing the new Venture Daze UGGs have been printed. Alongside these works, a billboard displaying the same images has been erected in Milan, offering Bantone his largest canvas yet.

The metal works have a tactile, industrial edge to them. They aren’t polished, shiny surfaces, but oxidised and rusty. The images of the legs wearing UGGs are faded and weathered, as if they were billboards that have been left to the elements for several years. Bantone invites us to touch the pieces, to glide our hands over the rough metal. He tells us how he printed the image with a laser printer, applied the image onto the surface of the metal, and then had to scratch off the transfer paper to reveal an image that is purposefully not perfect, something where the hand of the artist is very present.

Another one of the metal canvases reduces the image down and repeats it over and over until it fades to the bottom. I tell him it reminds me of Warhol’s famous Marilyn Diptych which also purposefully fades and displays its own mistakes. “It’s all about information disappearing,” is his reply. It’s an interesting stance for an artist to take, to prefer the places where the art disappears.

But Bantone displays a stark fearlessness with these works, a fearlessness that is only matched by UGG’s commission of the artist. “I think they took a big risk with me,” he says. “My work is very bold and these works are very abstract but I can genuinely stand behind the works and say that I love them.” 

He continues: “UGG giving me this platform is beautiful, in the sense of allowing the younger generation to take part in the conversation.”

James Bantone’s UGG commission for Salone Del Mobile, If you (see me, see me, see me), is on display at Spazio Maiocchi until April 21st


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