MAX PAPESCHI
Milanese from Milano, 45 years old, artist

SWASTIKAS, YOUPORN, NORTH KOREA: HERE’S MAX’S WORLD

by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI

MAX PAPESCHI

Video 1
ART BY CHANCE
My entry into the art world started by chance. It actually started over a failure, since I have worked as a director, in theatre first and then in television.
2 WASTED YEARS OVER A FILM
Until I got to work for the cinema I shot a film that cost me two years of my life, fully dedicated to this operation that eventually didn’t work out since the film has not been released… I had started working in theater and so I said ‘ok, let’s go back to the theatre and try to do something’.
RETURN TO THE THEATRE
And so I said ok, my next job will be a play, I had started with that, I went back to it using social networks, MySpace. Some friends of mine told me, “Ok, but if you are going to do something, start using social networks to create the page of the show”. I obviously didn’t have pictures with the actors and the scenes of the show but I thought photos would communicate the spirit of the show…
PHOTOSHOP DISCOVERY
I didn’t know how to use Photoshop so I called my former assistant who in one afternoon taught me the bases… I put a video on MySpace to show the purpose of the show, what was the spirit of the show, but no theater company nor producer contacted me.
THE GALLERY SURPRISE
A gallery in Milan contacted me instead, saying ‘These works are beautiful, would you like to exhibit with us?’ I began working with this gallery and a few months later I did my first solo, let’s say that everything started from that.
THE POLISH TURNING POINT
A Polish gallery owner asked me to participate at a collective exhibition. Usually at the beginning that’s what they call you for. On nude art I guess, it was a collective exhibition on nudes and aggressive pop art. And I said ‘Yes sure!’. And then I got a second message “Can I use the image of your naked Minnie? Your naked woman with the Minnie’s head and the swastika is the image for the poster”. And I said ‘Cool!’ I didn’t know they were going to make a poster as big as a building…
EVERYBODY LOVES MINNIE
After a couple of days I googled myself: ‘max papeschi’. In the last 24 hours all the world went crazy because that guy had printed an 8 x 8 meter Minnie in Poznan’s city center and a big mess came up since both the CNN and Fox reported it… The news reached websites from all over the world splitting the public opinion in two.
NEVERENDING CONTROVERSY
On one side Poznan’s Jewish community couldn’t understand this gigantic swastika, and on the other side the Polish Neo-nazis threatened the gallery saying that using their holy symbol was an insulting. In that moment I found myself being both the most hated and popular artist of the world.
THE MEANING?
My first works were about advertising language, meaning that any value could be sold through advertising communication… From diapers to Iraq’s bombing or Nazism.
FAKE ADVERTISING
I tried to create works that were as similar as possible to fake advertising campaigns.
CONTRASTING SYMBOLS
Symbols represent something. For the Western World the swastika is the symbol of absolute evil. Mickey Mouse is the symbol of childhood, purity, of good feelings. Mickey Mouse is one that works with the police, who arrests bad guys, who is kind to everyone. Putting these two symbols together was what interested me. After a while, who bothered to read my interviews understood it. Since then I haven’t received any email with insults and threats.
Video 2
MAMA ON SALE
It was the news ‘artist sells his mother at an auction’. This news was clickable, palatable and this was the game. And all media, most of them, came to terms with the fact that it was bullshit. And they posted ‘artist sells his mother at auction’. That was the art work itself. Among other things, that news became very popular, I don’t know why, in Central America and in South America.
ART ON YOUPORN
I wanted to be the first artist to make a work of art on youporn. Making of video art on youporn… We started with Koons’ idea, who made this operation with Cicciolina, who was his wife, that was “Made in Heaven”. I liked it, it was 2011 if I remember right, 2011 or 2012. In 2008 the darkest crisis started. Everything changed, the world had changed, and so I enjoyed playing on the concept “exit from Heaven”. I found this great girl who was up for it, she is a native fetish model, we dressed her as Minnie with a latex catsuit, and we made a video for youporn. Then the shotgun wedding with 300 guests in a villa, with cake, the ceremony… It was great fun!

MILAN, AMERICA
Milan has an international and positive image all over the world. For someone from Los Angeles for example, if you say “I’m from Milan” the reaction is “Oh wow!”. It’s their America. Many come here and they and up staying, they love it. It’s a city that I appreciated more over time. Not being here all the time I realized that in the end is a city where life is good.
MAX’S MONEY
I earn as a massage therapist in a Football League 2 team. Probably not even… You don’t earn a lot with the art. If the purpose is to make money, there are plenty of activities, also some legal ones, that are way more profitable.
ENVY
Envy is international, the same things, the same dynamics that you see here Milan when speaking of people who are successful or those who have lost their success. It’s an international practice that is part of human nature. The same things that I hear when I’m at dinner parties in Hollywood, with the same malice…
CRITICS
It bothers me the fact that people say, especially with regard to the early work, that I really made without having any ambition to expose or sell them, ‘ah these works are very smart because they go fishing in this and that, and so then collectors obviously buy them because they have icons’. It is often forgotten that the most famous ones, those ones that now you see on book covers, are works that I made at home when I was unemployed, so there was no cunning… I don’t really care about what others say…
TWO MORALS
The morals are two in my opinion: on the one hand it is true that people can’t control their destiny. You can make all the fucking plans you want, but if it isn’t meant to be you don’t succeed. But it is also true that if you insist, go ahead and believe in what you’re doing… it is like water that always finds its way around. The important thing is to keep going, to not get discouraged. And also be willing to change the tool you’re using to describe what you want to tell.
Video 3
THE BIG BROTHER EFFECT
Those who have studied at Brera Academy or at Naba etc. and maybe had their first exhibition after 10 years of hard work, they haven’t exhibited abroad, they haven’t had all the reviews I had, see me as actors who studied at drama academies see people coming out of the Big Brother starring in movies…