Fred Wilson deconstructs and reframes familiar objects and symbols, with a particular interest in the conventional display mechanisms propounded by museums and cultural institutions. In its original form, when it was made for the US Pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale, Sacre Conversazione comprised mannequins dressed in an array of replica historical costumes, with fake designer bags offered by a live seller seated in front of the installation. The mannequins are three-dimensional replicas of figures from Renaissance paintings. In their original painted context they are isolated, but Wilson places them in relation to each other. It’s a subversive comment on the intersection of display and commerce, the original and the fake, a continuation of the McKenzie–Frampton dialogue on the other side of the wall. Discussing the work, Wilson commented: a decorative art object is supposed to just sit there; you’re not supposed to really think too hard about it. But I like working with such common items and luxury goods that are not considered high art, because they authentically represent a culture, good or bad. Here they also reveal an historically invisible community, but also a prejudice.
For Atelier E.B, Sacre Conversazione embodies the overlapping narratives between history, sculpture, painting, commerce, and display.