Stolen Originality- Eva and Franco Mattes

Eva + Franco Mattes The Pigs of Todat are the Hams of Tomorrow Plymouth, January 2010

Eva + Franco Mattes
The Pigs of Todat are the Hams of Tomorrow
Plymouth, January 2010

Eva and Franco Mattes are artist belonging to Italy but are based in New York. Their line of work is extremely creative and dangerous as the notorious couple seldom completes an artwork without any theft involved. With a presence on the web as 0100101110101101.ORG, the Mattes play with reality via media subversion.


One of the most popular and controversial of the Mattes’ work is Stolen Pieces. From 1995 to 1997 they visited the most popular museums in the world and stole bits and pieces of famous artwork. These pieces were later used to create their own masterpiece. In an interview to Art Pulse Magazine, Eva and Franco explained “In the contemporary condition of information overload, the raw surplus of images, ideas and texts has become so great that the selection of material to plagiarize will inevitably be as much “creative” as the construction of those images, ideas and texts in the first place”. “Stolen Pieces” contained bits from the works of Andy Warhol, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Beuys, Rauschenberg, Warhol and Koons. The piece was revealed to the public in 2010.


Nikeplatz was another very successful work done by the Mattes which verged on being a prank. The duo set up in Vienna and started a fake Nike campaign complete with a website and cutting-edge technology equipped container. The campaign was about Nike erecting a huge swoosh logo in a main square changing its name from Karlsplatz to Nikeplatz. The fake marketing campaign received a huge reaction from the citizens. The sporting goods giant was enraged by the scandal and sued the Mattes- but they came out scot-free.


One of the darker creations of the Mattes was Darko Maver. They conjured up a fictional artist from thin air and publicised him enough to give him cult status and recognition. The imaginary Serbian artist created gory sculptures depicting heinous murders and of Balkan wars. The aim behind creating Darko Maver was simple, while the public and media eats up and raves about artistic depictions of violence in the world, little to no attention is paid to the real violence conducted systematically.


Continuing their legacy of privacy invasion and theft, Franco and Eva launched The Others. It was an extensive slideshow with over ten thousand pictures stolen from personal computers. The pictures, often embarrassing and private, were meant to show the faulty security of peer to peer interactions online. One of the women, Debra(in the image above), featured in the slide show narrated her experience of getting surprised by seeing herself on screen in a very pregnant photo:” I realized that anyone’s life nowadays can be part of an artwork, willingly or unwillingly.”

I think Eva and Franco Mattes are very creative artists. Their definition of originality rings true, especially as art has existed for thousands of years. Manipulation of old ideas and creations in a way that something completely unseen is born is simply original. We exist in a time where Media has taken over our perceptions and our sense of reality, by shocking people into realising their secrets and truths aren’t as safe as they are made to believe is definitely a commendable job. I think the duo is activist artist, trying to better the world in their own crazy way.