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.Read More
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
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No other work came close, but sales in the six-figure range were strong.
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...
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...
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...
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.
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...