The Strokes: A tale of two Fabrizio Morettis

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Fabrizio Morettis: Rock star (left) and art dealer and collector

The name Fabrizio Moretti will ring a bell with music fans of a rock ‘n’ roll persuasion.

So too though, it turns out, with those who have an interest in Renaissance art.

In one of the more intriguing career moves of recent times, the 39-year-old drummer from The Strokes has teamed up with his Italian art dealer namesake, 45, to put a fresh spin on some classic paintings and sculptures.

Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti: In Passing, sees the pair join forces to create a series of immersive installations, showcasing a selection of “old masters” at Sotheby’s New York.

The exhibition is intended to re-introduce the works – which will then be auctioned off – in a more contemporary way.

“They approached me and said ‘did you know about this art collector?'” explains the younger Moretti.

“And I said I did because he used to have [a gallery] on 80-something street [in New York] and I would pass it and be like ‘Hey, I recognise that man!’

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“They said: ‘Maybe there’s something to you guys collaborating.’ And I thought about it for a while and I figured that if it stayed at just me coming up with a playlist or something for it – I thought maybe that would be a little uninteresting at my end.'”

He adds: “But if they gave me the opportunity to get my hands dirty, it would be totally worth it, and they gave me the opportunity.”

The musician, whose lifelong love of art began with his obsession for drawing endless pictures of horses as a kid, jokingly tells the BBC how they then let him “go crazy” in one of the world’s largest brokers of fine art.

“They showed me all the forgeries that they have, and how they sell for millions of dollars.”

He laughs as he says: “Like: ‘This is Picasso… Oh, it’s actually Fred Picasso!’.”

“‘He sold this painting twice!’,” he jokes.

[Sotheby’s made it clear to me they understood Fabrizio was joking.]

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Fab’s fave: Taddeo Di Bartolo’s The Burial

The art works – including the rock star and former art student’s own personal favourite, the “super graphic and really stylised” Burial by Taddeo Di Bartolo – will be freshly viewed through the prism of his new installation, which is intended to work as an interactive puzzle.

(Almost like a classic art equivalent of what the Black Mirror producers tried with Bandersnatch, let’s say.)

“It’s almost like I’m building this maze so that the paintings could be this exclamation mark at the end of these strange moments, where you realise you’re in control and the art is revealed to you in different segments, because you’re swaying from side to side and it’s behind the wall,” he goes on.

“I was intrigued by the idea of creating this path that limits the way that you can perceive it, but also hands you control by limiting it. You know, since you’re the only person that can stand next to this painting in a certain particular spot, you’re also the only person that has ownership of it at that very moment.”

Is this (how you say) it?

The Italian Moretti said in a statement he was similarly “intrigued to collaborate with another Fabrizio, who shares my name,” noting him as “a respected visual artist and musician, who excels across the disciplines – much like the artists featured in the exhibition”.

Most importantly, however, the project has also helped the Brazil-born New York-raised Moretti, whose father is Italian, to say his own first name correctly.

“I’m really bad at pronunciation in Italian,” says the sticksman, “So much so that the other Fabrizio corrected me on my own name!

“It’s wild, at 39-years-old to be like: ‘Oh, I was wrong all these years’.”

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Fabrizio Moretti (left) cosies up to his bandmates, The Strokes, with a beer in 2001

Once the works are sold, Moretti (the drummer, that is – we hope you’re keeping up) will then get back behind the drum kit for a special New Year’s Eve hometown New York gig with the band in Brooklyn.

The seminal five-piece performed just the once in the UK in 2019, battling some sound issues to deliver a crowd-pleasing headline set at All Points East festival in east London. He says he wants to return to these shores next year, too, but in a much more intimate setting.

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“To be perfectly honest with you,” he says, “I would like to come back there and play a smaller place. I would like to play maybe a few shows at smaller places because as fun as doing those festivals can be, they’re also… You know, I want to have more of an interaction with the specific Strokes fans, you know what I mean?

“I feel we owe a lot to them. Especially you guys there in the UK who basically started our lives as musicians and we’re very thankful for that.”

‘Stop and smell the roses’

So does he miss those carefree days of playing Manhattan dive bars? Before fame, big festivals (and eventually the art world) came a-knocking?

“Yes. Increasingly as I get older,” he admits, “because I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t pay enough attention as it was happening.

“Things just started to fall like dominoes and moments started to turn into other moments and all of a sudden you’re playing The Mercury Lounge (in New York), and the next minute you’re flying to England and it just seems like I needed to stop and smell the roses a bit more.

“So I tried to look back on it and meditate on it, and see if I could remember anything that stuck in my subconscious. Bring it up to the fore.”

Fabrizio Moretti x Fabrizio Moretti: In Passing runs from 15-18 December at Sotheby’s New York, with the auction going live on 18 December.

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