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b. 1960, Italy

Maurizio Cattelan Biography

Known as the court jester of the art world, Italian Conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan employs subversion and wit to interrogate various conditions of the contemporary world, from authority, history, and religion to the production of art and the notion of the artist.

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Cattelan began to gain attention in the 1990s for his early works that treat socio-political events and art world figures with subversive humour. In response to rising xenophobia in Italy, for example, the artist formed a football team consisting of North African migrant workers, who participated in regional tournaments and played foosball on a seven-metre table called Stadium (1991). He also inverted the power dynamics between artist and gallerist, persuading gallerists to appear in absurd situations at his exhibition openings, such as having Emmanuel Perrotin wear a phallic rabbit costume (Errotin, le vrai Lapin, 1995) or Massimo De Carlo duct-taped to the gallery wall (A Perfect Day, 1999).

Cattelan engages historical and public figures in projects that have at times sparked controversy. One such work, La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999) is a life-like resin sculpture of Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteorite. While it has been interpreted as a critique of the Catholic Church's scandals and hypocrisy, it could also be read as considering the ideas of resilience and suffering. Him (2001), a sculpture made out of wax, is meant to be approached from behind, where it first appears to be a young boy kneeling on the floor. Viewed from the front however, Adolf Hitler's face emerges.

For his first solo exhibition in 1989, Maurizo Cattelan put up a sign that read Torno subito ('Be back soon') in lieu of a gallery filled with artworks. This anxiety in presenting orthodox exhibitions has become a running theme in his practice, in which he simultaneously subverts traditional modes of artmaking and art-exhibiting. When participating in a show at the Castello di Rivara in 1992, Cattelan knotted bed sheets into a rope and hung it from an open window, giving the impression that the artist had fled the site (Una Domenica a Rivara). This was followed a year later by Working is a bad job (1993) at the 45th Venice Biennale, where the artist contracted a perfume company to advertise their products in his allocated space.

Cattelan's own image has not been exempt from his satire. In La Rivoluzione siamo noi (2000), a polyester resin sculpture depicting himself—with a slightly oversized head—hangs from a clothing rack. The work was originally exhibited at the Migros Museum, Zurich, where it occupied the exhibition space all by itself. The self-reference takes a more allegorical form in Daddy, Daddy (2008), in which Disney's Pinocchio floats face down in a body of water, apparently having fallen to his death. By taking the wooden puppet Pinocchio—a frequent liar who seeks to become something he is not (a human)—as a surrogate image of himself, Maurizo Cattelan ironically nurtures persisting doubt about his status as an artist.

In 2011, Cattelan announced his retirement at the same time as a retrospective exhibition of his work opened at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, although he has since returned to further present works that poke fun at the art world. America (2016), a fully functioning toilet made out of gold, was first installed for almost a year at the Guggenheim; it was subsequently stolen while exhibited at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England (2019). Later that year, Cattelan famously duct-taped a banana to a wall at Art Basel in Miami Beach and titled it Comedian. It attracted international publicity a second time when performance artist David Datuna removed the banana (sold in three editions for between $120,000 and $150,000) and ate it.

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020

Maurizio Cattelan Featured Artworks

Untitled by Maurizio Cattelan contemporary artwork
Maurizio CattelanUntitled, 1999Acrylic on canvas
100 x 120 x 7.5 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Untitled by Maurizio Cattelan contemporary artwork
Maurizio CattelanUntitled, 1999Acrylic on canvas
100 x 120 x 7.5 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (Plated Boot) by Maurizio Cattelan contemporary artwork
Maurizio CattelanUntitled (Plated Boot), 201924k gold plated bronze
49 x 40.5 x 18 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled by Maurizio Cattelan contemporary artwork
Maurizio CattelanUntitled, 1996Gelatin silver print
40 x 60.2 cm
Not for sale
Duddell's

Maurizio Cattelan Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Closed
22 February–30 September 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS ParkettZurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Group Show at Perrotin, Seoul
Closed
24 September–26 October 2019 Group Show PerrotinSeoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Fire/works for Parkett 2.0 at Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Closed
15 December 2016–31 May 2017 Group Exhibition Fire/works for Parkett 2.0 ParkettZurich Exhibition Space

Maurizio Cattelan Represented By

Marian Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris, London
Perrotin contemporary art gallery in Paris, France Perrotin Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo

Maurizio Cattelan In Ocula Magazine

The Legal Risks of Eating Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian’ Banana Ocula News The Legal Risks of Eating Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian’ Banana Miami Beach, 11 December 2019

Defining the duct-taped banana as a sculpture or a concept could mean the difference between serving up to five years in prison and paying for a single piece of fruit. Last Saturday, Georgian-American artist David Datuna strode up to Maurizio Cattelan 's Comedian (2019), a banana duct-taped to the wall of Perrotin 's booth at Art Basel in...

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Maurizio Cattelan In Related Press

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It’s a Banana. It’s Art. And Now It’s the Guggenheim’s Problem. Related Press It’s a Banana. It’s Art. And Now It’s the Guggenheim’s Problem. 18 September 2020, The New York Times

Few art works sold in the past few years have drawn as much attention as 'Comedian' by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, in part because, despite its price and ironic humour, it is at its heart a banana that one tapes to a wall. The sly work’s simplicity enticed collectors to pay as much as $150,000 for it at a Miami art fair last fall, an...

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Oh, Crap! Thieves Swipe Solid Gold Toilet Worth $6M Related Press Oh, Crap! Thieves Swipe Solid Gold Toilet Worth $6M 16 September 2019, Hyperallergic

While every bathroom is a crime scene, on occasion, this week the art world sighs and chuckles over the latest audacious act of art theft: the removal of America (2016), the solid gold, functioning lavatory by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, which until the early morning of Saturday, September 14, was installed in a wood-paneled bathroom at...

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The Guggenheim Museum's new toilet is 18-karat gold - and yes, you can use it Related Press The Guggenheim Museum's new toilet is 18-karat gold - and yes, you can use it 22 December 2016, The Sydney Morning Herald

An out-of-the-loop visitor to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City might be curious as to why hundreds of people are queuing up to use the unassuming uni-sex bathroom on the 5th floor - but those in the know will be aware that this is the new home of a fully-functional 18-karat gold toilet.

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Maurizio Cattelan's 'Not Afraid of Love' at Monnaie de Paris Related Press Maurizio Cattelan's 'Not Afraid of Love' at Monnaie de Paris 27 October 2016, Whitewall

This story gets off on the wrong foot. It involves an artist who is already the subject of a lot of talk—arguably a little too much—and who caused several scandals in the 2000s, through his art, and also with his record prices. In the 2010s he’s mainly distinguished himself with a flood of gaudy images designed to leave a...

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