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October 19, 2004

Maurizio Cattelan


This controversial artist causes trouble wherever he goes.

Unlike me - I usually do the same - his trouble sells for $1 million a pop - and up.

What makes me unhappy is that I only learned of his existence last week, when I read Calvin Tomkins' New Yorker profile of the man.

I mean, I do read a bit, and yet, in the years since 1989, when he created what he considers his first legitimate work of art, not once have I come across mention of him or his work.

I love trouble.

I love troublemakers.

So there's no way I wouldn't remember him if I had heard of him, 'cause he's major league.

Consider some of his works:

• "La Nona Ora" - a full-size wax sculpture of Pope John Paul II in papal regalia, lying on his side, crushed to the ground by a jagged meteorite

• "Him" (below) -


a lifelike Adolf Hitler, reduced in size and kneeling in prayer

• Likenesses of three adolescent boys with ropes around their necks, hanging from a branch of an oak tree in a public square in Milan, Italy [this sculpture was only on view for 27 hours before a public outcry caused it to be taken down]

• A wax bust of supermodel Stephanie Seymour, mounted trophy-like on a wooden wall plaque [I've got to give Peter Brant, Stephanie's billionaire husband, who commissioned the work, credit for being able to laugh at himself and his acquisition of the ultimate "trophy wife"]

• Tethering a live donkey beneath a crystal chandelier at the Daniel Newburg Gallery in New York, where it remained, braying and excreting, until officials from the Department of Health closed it down

• Taping his Milan dealer, Massimo De Carlo, to the gallery wall with several layers of heavy-duty duct tape, a tableau vivant that had to be deconstructed short of its planned three-hour time frame when De Carlo found that he could no longer breathe

• Having exact duplicates made of every work at a show in a gallery next door to his, then displaying the copies as his, with the same prices and press release

• An oversized, papier-maché caricature of Picasso's head that he had made for a "projects" show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1998. The head was worn by a professional actor or actress who circulated inside and outside the museum, signing autographs and posing for snapshots like a Disney World character

• "Charlie Don't Surf" - a 1997 sculpture consisting of a school desk, a chair, and a child mannequin who sits at the desk, his hands nailed down to it by two pencils [man, does that sum up my mood throughout my days in school]

• "Bidibidobidiboo" - a squirrel that has just committed suicide sits slumped at a tiny kitchen table, near a sink full of dirty dishes, with a squirrel-sized revolver lying at its feet

• "Super noi" - a 1992 piece made up of 50 portraits of Cattelan by a police sketch artist, based on verbal descriptions by other people

• "Mini-me" - a miniature Cattelan looking down from a bookshelf

• "Charlie" - a three-year-old Cattelan on a remote-controlled tricycle that zipped around the grounds of the 2003 Venice Biennale, causing startled viewers to jump out of its path

• Not Afraid of Love" - his first show (2000) at his current American dealer's gallery (Marion Goodman in New York), which consisted of a plastic-and-resin baby elephant covered by a white sheet with holes cut out for its soulful eyes

• "Frank & Jamie" - a 2002 work (above) consisting of mannequins of two uniformed New York policemen, turned upside down and propped against a wall

The artist lives alone in New York City in the same two-room apartment in the East Village he rented 10 years ago.

The furnishings, according to one of the few friends allowed into it, include a cot, a table, a stereo, and not much else.

He buys a new set of clothes every year and throws out the old ones.

He keeps fit by swimming laps for 70 minutes every morning at a public pool downtown, and by riding his bike, which he refers to as "my girlfriend."

His studio is the telephone, and he is constantly on the phone with one or another of his international band of friends and collaborators.

They provide counsel, criticism, and other unpaid services.

All have jobs and careers of their own.

Cattelan's works bring very high prices these days.

The "Mini-me" sculpture recently sold for $355,200.

"La Nona Ora" (The Pope laid low) brought just under $1 million in 2001.

"The Ballad of Trotsky," a sculpture of a horse, suspended from the ceiling, went for $2 million at Sotheby's in the spring of this year.

[via Calvin Tomkins' and the New Yorker]

October 19, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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Peter Brant is only a multi-millionaire. Stephanie Seymour is still a trophy wife, however.

Posted by: greg.org | Oct 26, 2004 7:28:14 PM

http://www.artnet.com/magazine_pre2000/features/fusselman/fusselman10-27-98.asp :

"Certainly one of Cattelan's most renowned efforts was in conjunction with the Appel Foundation in Amsterdam. There, he and five curators got some burglar's tools, hired a van and stole an entire group show from Amsterdam's Gallery Bloom. Cattelan says that the plan was to set up Bloom's group show in the Appel -- as his 'piece.' But the police were called the following day and Cattelan's work was never exhibited.

"Despite an outpouring of indignation from Bloom, he adds, the gallery asked him to do a show there a year later. He declined."

Posted by: Dan | Oct 26, 2004 3:15:38 PM

It will stop hurting when the pain goes away.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 20, 2004 10:39:11 AM

Cattelan's a regular in the European art circuit - I told you you should read the British press!

Posted by: Russ | Oct 19, 2004 2:17:26 PM

Facinating. It seems as if he spends equal time laughing at the world and making fun of the most serious of subjects to show that even the most serious things can be looked at in a surreal and yet comical way and his response is: If you don't like it...so what? Is he an artist cum social spectator? Or is he a social commentator with a message to be found in each piece? I'm not sure...What thoughts is he attempting to ellicit from us? I'm wondering what his thoughts would be or his artistic renderings would be of the current situation in Iraq?

Posted by: Free medicine | Oct 19, 2004 10:23:54 AM

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