7 May-31 Aug 2003. Ontani is a jester in the court of Transavanguardia art. An international artist, he has long used his own person to tell old and new tales. In his tinted photographs and his porcelain sculptures he dares his own features to lurk, to interpret anybody from wood nymph to centipede, from Dante to Gertrude Stein, from Roman she-wolf to Napoleon. He exploits his narcissism sincerely and with dash and wit. Here in the newly restored and re-opened Napoleon museum the artist stood at the opening, a dandy as ever, dressed entirely in Nilegreen silk, a fine apparition next to his creature, his most adventurous new statue.
Commissioned by Paolo Serra da Cassano from Elba, the fabulous monster is prancing on the map of the island. A centaur with a bare gleaming chest, it sports Napoleons hat, ornaments and sexual apurtenance; however, it bears a distinct resemblance to its maker.
On marble balustrades nearby there is a row of little monsters, little travesties, also on the napoleonic theme. One is an Elban bee in the act of stinging, another wears a skirt of roses, one has a chest in the shape of a blue snail, one wears the eye of a cyclops, one is a rooster, all are little Ontanis. Whether they are butterfly or caterpillar, and of what sex, is beside the point.
Executed by the clever craftsmen of Faenza, the sculptures sparkle and glitter wickedly, a welcome contrast to the gloom, heavy with history, of the museum. Ontani has once more come out of the chrysalis of ART with a big A. Bravely and blithely riding on the edge of kitsch, here he stands inured in his own serendipity. Edith Schloss.