Years in the making, the Guggenheim’s retrospective of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has finally arrived.
About 130 of his works are now hanging, immaculately and elegantly, from a circular metal rack at the top of the Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda, like sausages, laundry or, to quote the Guggenheim’s rather bravely worded press materials, “a mass execution.” (We counted two of the artist’s sculptures of young boys hanging by their necks.)
Mr. Cattelan, as many have pointed out, is a master of the one liner. His works are designed to fill a room, to be photographed. They are short jokes we can tell each other. “I asked Maurizio to make a portrait of my grandmother,” one can hear a collector telling his house guest. “And shoved a sculpture of her in a refrigerator!” Then they laugh.
Interviewing the artist Maurizio Cattelan is like trying to extract a splinter with a spatula. The tools in your journalistic toolbox turn out to be blunt and absurd, but you proceed with them anyhow, quixotically. An hour into things, you’re smacking the splinter with the spatula, believing it will come out the other side.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Mr. Cattelan, 51, was born in Padua, Italy, and has lived in New York for almost 20 years. He has made funny art and is an intermittently somber man. Patches of moodiness cross the mountain range of his face, dark clouds on an otherwise sunny day.
I don’t get Maurizio Cattelan’s work. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor. I just have never found him funny. His art, which comprises Madame Tussaud’s-style wax figures (like a barefoot J.F.K. in a coffin) and stuffed animals (pigeons or golden retrievers), has always made me feel like the joke’s on me, or on the chump of a collector duped into buying one of these things for an exorbitant price. Granted his “pope struck by a meteor” (la Nona Ora) and his “praying Hitler” (Him) provided some striking imagery, but what of his tasteless figures of homeless people or that ridiculous squirrel that committed suicide with a mini pistol? That stuff is in poor taste. Why would anyone ever want to own one of those goofy jokes?
The band MGMT recently sat down for a bloody mary and some wacky self-directed interview questions in a video promoting their upcoming shows at the Guggenheim.
We know Maurizio Cattelan is somewhat subversive, what with the statues of Hitler innocently praying and the Pope lying in a pile of shattered glass and all. But here’s a disclaimer we’ve never seen before. Lot 52 at Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary evening sale in London on October 14 is a work by Mr. Cattelan, “Untitled,” estimated at $1,405,00 – $1,874,400. In lieu of a picture of the piece is this note:
THIS LOT IS OF A CHALLENGING NATURE. THOSE OF A DELICATE SENSIBILITY MAY WISH NOT TO VIEW IT. CLICK HERE IF YOU STILL WISH TO VIEW THIS LOT.
With the retrospective of artist Maurizio Cattelan coming up at the Guggenheim we’ve had odd jobs on our mind lately. Mr. Cattelan had lots of odd jobs before he became an artist – postman, floor cleaner, cook. Of course, some would look at his work and say art is his oddest job yet.