Sometimes art has to lie in order to achieve its full impact – for instance, when the point is to install a symbol which draws our attention amidst the slow flow of urban change, and simultaneously makes us suddenly aware of that change. The more elegantly it provokes disbelief by its deception, the more effective it is. This is precisely what Filomeno Fusco succeeded in with his Versace installation in Hamburg-St. Pauli. The boarded up façade in the Clemens-Schulz-Straße – sporting the world-famous logo of the fashion company from Milan, made from fake marble – provoked so much anger and destructiveness, because people found it conceivable that luxury brands are now moving into the red light-, student-, and artist-district. Within the context of the process known as gentrification, the announcement of a first class fashion shop seemed like a dangerous source of infection that proclaimed the slow death of the local cultural diversity of species.
The reactions to it were intended, and part of the artwork. Within a short period of time, passers-by scribbled slogans such as “Dönerteller (doner-kebab-plate) instead of Donatella” or “Are you well insured?” on the chipboards. People discussed the sighting on Twitter and other internet forums, and the local media reported extensively about Versace in St. Pauli. Those who fell for the deception – like a journalist from the New York Times, who described the “opening” of the shop as a sign of the changes in St. Pauli – contributed to the effectiveness of the installation, just as did the many people who discussed the intention of the art event after some brief confusion. But the negative response to the shop was by no means unanimous. A group of transvestites planned a demonstration intending to express their enthusiasm – although it remains unclear whether it was directed at the prospect of the shop opening or the protest against it.
One year later, the debate about gentrification that was anticipated by Fusco’s work is in full swing in Hamburg. McDonald’s, Adidas, T-Mobile, and Tim Mälzer’s luxury restaurant Bullerei have made Filomeno Fusco’s prophecy become real. Shabby is chic, but the resistance against this tendency is becoming stronger. To achieve the same effect as back then, the logo would probably have to say Rolls Royce.