Everybody has a double. At least, nearly every culture’s mythology believes that everyone does, from the ancient Egyptian spirit double ka, for whom offerings of alabaster, beer, and bread were left after a person’s death; to the cunning doppelgänger who takes over a reclusive government official’s life in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Double.
Or, most recently, the drummer of legendary Lower East Side band The Strokes, Fabrizio Moretti, and the internationally renowned Old Master paintings dealer...Fabrizio Moretti.
“There’s these two Fabrizios,” Moretti, of The Strokes, said a phone interview last week. “It’s so strange to say that.”
“I lived for three years hating this guy for this reason,” Moretti, the dealer, who generally goes by Fabrizio, said in a separate phone interview. He spent years googling himself and finding only results for Fabrizio Moretti, drummer in The Strokes. “But at the same time, it made me laugh.”
Perhaps even more strange is that, when Sotheby’s brought them together, they hit it off—so much so that they are mounting a joint exhibition, Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti | In Passing, that will run at the Upper East Side auction house from December 15th to 18th. It will feature more than 20 Old Master paintings and sculpture from Moretti’s (the dealer) stock, in an interactive installation which leads viewers to look at the paintings in nontraditional ways, like kneeling, or with neon-light effects that make the works appear more vibrant in natural light, designed by Moretti, of The Strokes.
Sotheby’s wasn’t sure what to expect when it introduced the two—“They were like, why don't we try to connect these two wires,” said Moretti, of The Strokes—but members of the Old Masters department knew that Moretti, of The Strokes, was an art fan, and had also done an Old Masters-tinged installation of astronauts in niches inspired by European religious architecture at rag & bone’s Nolita store in 2013. Both Morettis had good feelings about their shared destiny. “There is such a specific intimate identity card that I shared with this guy and such a different lifestyle, such an unknown lifestyle that he has from me,” Moretti, of The Strokes, said. He remembered thinking, “Maybe there's something interesting and intriguing. Maybe there's a door ajar to explore perspectives with that.”
Indeed, there was: “If she was a woman, I would have said, ‘This is love,’” said Moretti, the dealer, of their immediate chemistry.
It was an experience that Moretti, of The Strokes, had while looking at the “Mona Lisa” that sort of kickstarted the show’s concept. (And what did we tell you about da Vinci just last month?!) “A long, long time ago, I was in front of the ‘Mona Lisa’ and I heard someone saying, ‘Ugh! Take your photo and go!’ And it bummed me out.” Moretti—yes, of The Strokes—wondered, “Shouldn't there be more of a reverent experience?” While living in France later in life, he had a more ideal visit to the painting late at night, as the Louvre stays open until almost 10 P.M. on Fridays. “The room that she was in was empty, and I could really spend my time with her and gaze longfully into her eyes, as she gazed slightly off of mine, and smiled her knowing smile,” he recalled. “I thought, This is what this should be about.”
So Moretti, of The Strokes, decided to “set up these scenarios, each moment, like isolating the viewer,” mentioning Bruce Nauman’s works at Dia: Beacon, where unorthodox viewing arrangements are part of the work, as another point of inspiration. Old Masters, which are far removed as they’ll ever be from their original religious context, lend themselves particularly well to this sort of experimental staging. First, because they remain underappreciated in the art world, where contemporary art reigns supreme on the market: “Unfortunately, it’s a sophisticated world, and a small world,” said Moretti, the dealer. Through exhibitions like this, he said, “We want to now open the discussion.”
And second, Moretti, of The Strokes, said, “It’s interesting to like, almost embrace the weight of their meaning, and have you [the viewer] genuflect in front of a painting that is meant to give you awe, to fill you with awe, this fear of God.”
The exhibition is the latest in a series of Sotheby’s programming intended to bring Old Masters to new audiences, especially young ones. “In the future, I don't see restorers, I don't see curators, I don't see a young generation that can take place and take care of the important institutions in America and in the rest of the world,” said Moretti. Said the other Moretti, “I think [Old Master painters] all had a subversive element to their style and their technique. They all wanted to be individuals when they should have been the flock.”
By now, surely, you can tell your Morettis apart.