The Artifacts of Dystopian Future - On the Art of Federico Clapis


Crypto Connection, Federico Clapis, 2018

Federico Clapis (b. 1987) is an Italian multidisciplinary artist based in Milan who works with sculpture, installation, and video art to comment on the contemporary human condition. His path into the visual arts is a unique one, albeit effective. For years, Clapis produced and starred in viral comedy videos, which have gathered millions of views across social media platforms. It wasn’t until September 2015, at the height of his media popularity, he felt the time had come for a career change. Since then, he has used his online presence to publically share his artwork, which he had kept hidden hitherto, while continuing to develop his art practice. Clapis’ work has been exhibited in his native Italy, including at the 2019 Venice Biennale, as well as internationally in London, Munich, and Tokyo.


Touch Scream, Federico Clapis, 2018

One of the most recurrent themes in his work is the relationship between man and technology. In his first series titled Actor on Canvas, the artist used advanced 3D scanning and printing technologies to create figurines in his likeness, which he embedded within his own paintings. This allowed him to become the interpreter of those images from the perspective of the figurine. From there, Clapis discovered modeling, which resulted in a new series of resin sculptures he is best-known for. His first piece for this series, The Connection, made in 2017, depicts an expectant mother and, inside her belly, the baby is playing with a smartphone.


Anthony, Federico Clapis, 2020

Despite the child having not yet been born, technology is so deeply ingrained within our culture, its passage onto future generations is not only expected, but inevitable. Another notable sculpture from the same series is Touch Scream (2018), which has been exhibited twice at the Triennale Museum in Milan, once in 2019 and again the following year. This arresting work, which shows two people reaching towards each other from opposing computer screens, makes a powerful statement about our innate desire to connect with others. Besides Touch Scream, his 2020 solo show Deep Scrolling Experience at the Triennale Milano included several of his iconic works: Mamaegotchi (2019), Babydrone (2018), and Grieving Conceptions (2018).




Welcome, Federico Clapis, 2019

While his work may be read as a demonization of technology, by no means is this an accurate representation of Clapis’ own views. In fact, he is an ardent proponent of technology, which is at the heart of his practice. In this case, technology not only plays a key role in the conception of his artwork, but also in its reception. After posting a new creation to social media, Clapis often invites his followers to comment what the artwork means to them. The experiential aspect of his work, users sharing their thoughts and feelings in real time, acts as an extension to the artwork’s material form. Only once the work is online and people can see, experience, and contemplate it, the work fully comes to life. While the vast majority of his work deals with technology, on occasion he has explored other contemporary issues like the global refugee crisis. His installation Welcome (2019), made in collaboration with creative director Sergio Spaccavento, consists of a doormat with a doll of a migrant child holding on strenuously, in the Mediterranean. Its timing is especially poignant, created in the context of recent legislation passed in Italy that criminalized those who saved the lives of migrants at sea.


Addolorata Concezione, Federico Clapis, 2018

Over the last year, the quarantine period has been extremely productive for Clapis, despite all of the restrictions on daily life. The inability to meet with his collaborators nor the closure of museums were enough to stop him from setting foot in his studio. More than ever, his art became an outlet for self-expression and the exploration of new ideas and feelings that couldn’t always be verbalized. One of his current interests is the idea of virtual reality museums, which could host digital art and offer immersive experiences involving direct interactions between artists and institutions. For Clapis, “This suggests a future that is less and less physical but more and more experiential. I am sure this will not replace traditional museums, but I think it can be interesting to explore this new dimension.” Furthermore, he published his first book, an autobiography titled Pattern, chronicling the artist’s life experiences and the thought process behind some of his renowned works. The pattern is available for purchase on the artist’s website.

Babydrone, Federico Clapis, 2018

In February 2021, Clapis dropped his first NFT, BabyDrone (2021), which sold for 14.35Ξ ($22,096) on SuperRare. Perhaps this is not surprising considering his long-standing interest in cryptocurrencies. Foreshadowing his own entry into the crypto sphere, in 2018, he debuted the world’s first public ‘crypto-sculpture’, a three-meter-high bronze rendition of his earlier work The Connection, in London’s South Bank. Commissioned by Eidoo, the multicurrency wallet and hybrid exchange for blockchain assets, the sculpture sought to ignite a conversation about the future of cryptocurrencies in the financial sector. Its location was chosen to ensure high visibility as well as position London as a future crypto capital of the world. As of late, Clapis has minted 8 NFTs, all of which have sold out. His newest, Little by little, fetched a whopping 24.888Ξ ($65,953) within two hours of its release, becoming his highest valued work to date.


Take Care - Tamagotchi of fear, Federico Clapis, 2020

As Italy gradually eases lockdown restrictions, there is an increasing likelihood that in-person exhibitions will reopen in the near future. Sometime this June (exact date to be determined), Clapis is scheduled for a solo show at the Bianchi Zardin Gallery in Milan, where his work will be contextualized in an abandoned environment. In the meantime, he plans to continue working on NFTs and staying connected with his fans. “I don’t claim to be able to convey a specific message. Every piece tells me something about myself, and remains mine, something personal and intimate. The objective is that it then tells every person something about themselves.”


As Italy gradually eases lockdown restrictions, there is an increasing likelihood that in-person exhibitions will reopen in the near future. Sometime this June (exact date to be determined), Clapis is scheduled for a solo show at the Bianchi Zardin Gallery in Milan, where his work will be contextualized in an abandoned environment. In the meantime, he plans to continue working on NFTs and staying connected with his fans. “I don’t claim to be able to convey a specific message. Every piece tells me something about myself, and remains mine, something personal and intimate. The objective is that it then tells every person something about themselves.”