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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dollars Aflame at Tony Matelli’s ‘The Idiot’ Show

Gary Tatintsian galleryEven before the dollar sunk below 30 rubles, Matelli decided to burn them.

Artist Tony Matelli is on show for the second year running in Moscow at the Gary Tatintsian Gallery with his exhibition “The Idiot.”

Those who remember the previous installation, “Survival,” may be disappointed. Most people remember “Survival” for “Old Enemy, New Victim,” a sculpture that consisted of two skinny monkeys attacking a much larger variety of their kind in what looked like a fight to the death.

“In ‘Survival,’ every item was shocking. Now visitors look at the installation and wonder where the exhibition is. They ask if it was called off,” gallery director Victoria Pukemova said.

Looking around “The Idiot,” you could think it was just a couple of boxes, a small flame and some plants.

Matelli is known for his attention to details. A sculpture of a topless women that stood in the Tatintsian gallery has fooled many a visitor into thinking it was a real person.

The central exhibit of “The Idiot” is what looks like a Budweiser vending machine that is now being used by birds as a nest.

“Imagine a person drinking beer in front of the TV, who is slowly degrading, and his empty brain might be suitable for birds to live in,” Pukemova commented.

Matelli once said of his works, “They are confused because I am confused. It seems to me that this is the condition of modern society.”

Near the Budweiser brain is a table with a small flame on it. “(Expletive) it, free yourself!” — as the installation is called — is a table where two $100 bills lie burning continuously. “People are waiting for the crash of the dollar looking at how it’s burning. … But it’s still alive,” Pukemova said.

The dollars are made of porcelain-coated steel that is lit through an internal wick that burns from paraffin in the tin below.

However much it is a critique of the monetary system, the work is incidentally still on sale for thousands of those same dollars.

For Europhiles and Europhobes, the work also comes in euros too, according to his web site, No ruble version seems to have been made.

A visitor can also see in different corners what have been called Matelli’s autographs, green weeds climbing up the walls. The “weeds” are carefully crafted out of bronze and could fool anyone in a less weed-like territory, but not inside a gallery close to the Kremlin.

Matelli once said weeds are “the horticultural equivalent of a zit,” and “represent a breakdown, either a failure or refusal to fight the perfunctory battle against entropy. One weed is a forgivable blemish. Overgrowth is hopeless abandon. Overgrowth inside is the cultivation of abandonment, a rewriting of rules. The celebration of failure.”

“In my point of view, ‘Weeds’ is the most interesting object. Created diligently and hyperrealistically, it symbolizes wastefulness and desolation in the consciousness of crowds, of society,” Pukemova said.

“The Idiot” runs through Nov. 20 at the Gary Tatintsian Gallery, 3/8 Ulitsa Ilyinka, Bldg. 5. Metro Ploshchad Revolyutsii. 921-2102, Free entrance.