Why ‘Inside’ film employed an artwork curator to ‘make it legit’

Most movies set within the artwork world don’t have a curator. Vasilis Katsoupis’ “Inside” did — and commissioned unique modern works in addition.

The movie, set solely in a New York City penthouse, follows an artwork thief named Nemo (Willem Dafoe), who arrives to steal a set of Egon Schiele work. When the housebreaking goes awry, Nemo is trapped inside with the work, sculptures and installations collected by the unseen proprietor. As he’s pressured to outlive within the unwelcoming condominium, Nemo engages with the works — and makes use of a few of them to maintain himself alive.

To create the gathering, Katsoupis teamed up with Italian artwork curator Leonardo Bigazzi. Some of the works seem in Ben Hopkins’ script for the movie, whereas others have been commissioned or borrowed from artists and galleries.

“There was a very clear vision on the purpose … some of the works had to fulfill,” Bigazzi explains. “From the banal aspect of having a sculpture in a pointed metal that could be used to open the cellar to more complex elements of the narrative.”

“I had an idea for the collection in my mind, but I needed an expert to make it legit,” Katsoupis provides. “We’ve seen too many films that have to do with art and most of the time the art is fake or lookalikes. I really wanted in my film for everything to be very, very correct.”

Dozens of real-life works populate the penthouse, together with items by Francesco Clemente, Maurizio Cattelan, John Armleder, Alvaro Urbano, Maxwell Alexandre, David Horvitz and Joanna Piotrowska. Here, Katsoupis and Bigazzi clarify the intention behind six of probably the most memorable.

Francesco Clemente, ‘After and Before’ (2021)

On the set of “Inside.”

(Wolfgang Ennenbach / Focus Features)

Several items of artwork seem completely in “Inside.” For certainly one of them, Bigazzi approached Italian painter Francesco Clemente about an unique fee influenced by an present work, “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth.

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“Everyone knows that’s in the MOMA collection, so it would be impossible for our collector to have this artwork,” Katsoupis says. “For me, this art is [about] this figure that is alone in this field and feels vulnerable because Christina is incapable of moving. We asked Francesco to be inspired by this and make his own take.”

“‘Christina’s World’ is not a landscape with a woman; it’s really like a psychological portrait of the impossibility of reaching something that is unreachable,” Bigazzi provides. “The role that this work had in the script was this idea of Willem looking at this painting and imagining the possibility to reach this woman as much as he’s eager to reach the outside world. The Clemente style is a very recognizable watercolor style. It’s a work that any art connoisseur or professional would recognize instantly.”

Petrit Halilaj, ‘Do you realise there is a rainbow even if it’s evening!?’ (2020)

A man in a furry headdress

Willem Dafoe as Nemo in “Inside.”

(Focus Features)

Dubbed “The Moth” by the filmmakers, “Do you realise there is a rainbow even if it’s night!?” is a continuation of Kosovan artist Petrit Halilaj’s sequence for the 2017 Venice Biennale. Bigazzi commissioned the piece particularly for “Inside” to be put in on the penthouse wall, and whereas Dafoe was touring the on-set artwork with Katsoupis, he determined to don it as a fancy dress.

“He said, ‘I’m going to be freezing cold. Why am I not wearing this?’” Bigazzi remembers. “And it became one of the most iconic images of the film where he’s wearing this moth, becoming almost like a shaman.”

Maurizio Cattelan, ‘Untitled’ (1999)

Print of a man is duct-taped to a white canvas.

Maurizio Cattelan’s “Untitled.”

(Wolfgang Ennenbach / Focus Features)

The print of Maurizio Cattelan’s work, also called “A Perfect Day,” showcases an set up at Milan’s Galleria Massimo de Carlo, the place the artist duct-taped his gallerist to the wall. It marked the primary time Cattelan used duct tape (extra just lately, he taped a banana to a wall at Art Basel), and his intention was to reverse the ability dynamics within the gallery world.

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“For me, this work was perfect because Nemo finds himself in a situation where he’s there to steal and he ends up in a prison,” Bigazzi says. “This idea of power structure and control is flipped.”

Later within the movie, Nemo destroys the print, which was not scripted.

“Because they were shooting chronologically, Willem had a lot of time on set to negotiate his relationship with the works,” Bigazzi remembers. “Since the very beginning we negotiated the fact that any damage to the work that happened had to be for the character’s survivalism, either physical or psychological. I called Maurizio to ask him and he was really excited.”

“That happened many times on the film,” Katsoupis provides. “You had these artworks that were getting a new life inside the movie, even if it wasn’t meant to happen in the script. It was happening organically while we were shooting.”

Breda Beban, ‘I can’t make you’re keen on me’ (2003)

A video installation showing a man and woman sitting side by side with their hands resting in front of them

“I can’t make you love me” in “Inside.”

(Focus Features)

Serbian video artist Breda Beban, who died in 2012, was Katsoupis’ instructor and mentor throughout his MFA in display arts in England, and the filmmaker needed to pay tribute to her in his movie. Two of Beban’s works seem in “Inside”: a small inkjet print titled “Arte Vivo (No. 8)” and an eight-minute dual-screen video set up, “I can’t make you love me.”

“It is simple in the script: It is a form of entertainment for him,” Katsoupis says of the video work. “It’s like a small cinema. It’s the only artwork that has dialogue and has some movement. On the TV, you cannot get any channels — everything is destroyed except these screens.”

“The work speaks about a couple who share the same cinematic space,” Bigazzi explains. “You understand that they’re in the same room and sitting at the same table, but because they’re on two different screens it’s as if they were never encountering [each other]. It’s a love that cannot happen. There is a similar impossibility of connection between Willem’s character and the woman [he watches] on the CCTV. It also becomes a discourse on meta cinema: Although the audience is in a same exchange with Nemo, [they] will never reach level of being there with him, inside the house, trapped.”

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Joanna Piotrowska, ‘Untitled’ sequence (2015-17)

A crew constructing a sculpture in dark lighting with a cityscape seen through the windows.

The crew at work through the manufacturing of “Inside.”

(Focus Features)

Several years in the past, Polish artist Joanna Piotrowska requested associates around the globe to construct shelters of their houses with objects they’d mendacity round. The consequence was a sequence of pictures of makeshift shelters. The works mirrored what Katsoupis imagined Nemo finally constructing within the penthouse.

“It’s about the idea of building your own precarious refuge inside the domestic environment with the illusion of this being something that protects you but actually being extremely vulnerable,” Bigazzi says. “Joanna’s photographs appear at the beginning when the house is still totally pristine and perfect, and then it’s almost as if the shelter then materializes in the space later on in the film.”

Nemo’s towering sculptural shelter, constructed on the set by manufacturing designer Thorsten Sabel, was created with furnishings and a few of the precise artwork.

“It looks like an art installation,” Katsoupis notes.

David Horvitz, ‘All the time that will come after this moment’ (2019)

Silhouette of a man in a dark room

Willem Dafoe stars as Nemo in director Vasilis Katsoupis’ “Inside.”

(Wolfgang Ennenbach / Focus Features)

A neon gentle sculpture, created by Los Angeles-based artist David Horvitz, hangs in a outstanding location within the collector’s condominium. For the primary half of the movie, the sculpture’s 9 phrases are completely illuminated. Later, after water floods down the partitions, solely three stay: “after this moment.”

“The magic of cinema is when the water [came in] half of the sentence turned off. That was not intentional — it happened on the set,” Katsoupis says.

“This really becomes a perfect statement of the generative possibilities of when you put art in a different context,” Bigazzi provides. “In the film it’s really after that moment that everything is different because there’s water on the floor. The fact that it happened by chance shows that certain things, when activated in a certain way, gain their own life.”