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MAURIZIO CATTELAN | 'UNTITLED'
December 27th 2019
Described as the ‘enfant terrible’ of the art world, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan creates controversial sculpture and performance work, often with a morbidly dark humour. The artist pushes the boundaries of the ever-actual question of “What is art?” by bringing the viewer into a no-man’s land of absurdity and existential brilliance. In 2019 Cattelan reiterated his status of notoriety by taping a banana to a wall with duct tape at the Art Basel art fair in Miami.
by Henrik Riis
PRINT EDITION RELEASE
Maurizio Cattelan was born in Padua, Italy, in 1960. As a self-taught artist, he started a career in art with little formal training, only working briefly as a furniture designer. Today he considers himself as an 'artworker' rather than an artist. Regarded as a sideliner and ‘court jester’ of the art establishment - a reputation which Cattelan himself seeks to fuel to a certain extent - his artworks are humorous and seek to interrogate socially ingrained norms and hierarchies. His underlying mockery of systems of order, such as social niceties or the art world, regularly employs themes and motifs from the past in order to make a desired point.

In 1999 Cattelan began making exquisite life-size wax sculptures of various key historical figures. Two of his most recognisable works made in such a way are 'La Nona Hora' (1999) (translated as ‘the ninth hour’) featuring Pope John Paul II on the floor having been struck by a meteor, and 'Him' (2001), where Hitler is presented as a kneeling schoolboy, apparently during a prayer. Both works raise interesting questions in relation to humour, religion and history, but Cattelan leaves the interpretation to the viewer. In the film documentary “The Price of Everything” from 2018, Stefan Edlis, a collector and Chicago-based philanthropist, was asked why a Jewish refugee would own a work such as ‘Him’ - and have it displayed in his home. Edlis, who escaped persecution in Austria and came to the US with his family in 1941, smiled and replied “I think it is an interesting question, but also an unimportant one” . Maurizio Cattelan could not have provided a better answer.

Time after time Cattelan’s controversial work sparks strong reactions. A local resident in Milan was so outraged by the artist’s outdoor installation, ‘Bambini’ (2004), showing three children hanging by their necks from a tree, that he cut them down. Under the tree where the children no longer hang, a kind of "speakers' corner" established itself where still-confused Milanese debate whether the children were too real and therefore overstepped the limits of art.

Also a notable work by the artist is 'Betsy' (1999), likely the most disturbing of them all due to its startling realness. The sculpture features a little old lady sitting hunched up, yet smiling, inside a half-open refrigerator; perhaps an observation of the cold and lonely lives the elderly obliviously live in today's society. With a similar dark wit, in ‘Bidibidobidiboo’ (1996), a taxidermised squirrel slumps over a miniature kitchen table, with a miniature gun on the floor by its feet suggesting a dramatic suicide; the title of the work a reference to the novelty song from the 1950s Disney film Cinderella.

Cattelan decided early on, like many successful artists, that he prefers to work with the initial creative phase only. "It only takes a minute to have the idea,” he says; after that he usually commissions someone else to do the necessary stuffing, moulding or performing on his behalf. Regardless of the artist’s chosen method of artistic expression, Cattelan applies the same philosophy whether is it a sculptural work, a performance - or talking to a journalist. When an interviewer once asked him how he would know it was Cattelan attending, and not a person masquerading as him, Cattelan (or was it an alter-ego) unhelpfully replied "Sorry, can't help you there. I don't know who I am."
MAURIZIO CATTELAN
Untitled, 1999

Edition of 1000
30(w) x 40(h) cm
12.01(w) x 15.94(h) inches
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Maurizio Cattelan (Italian, b. 1960)

Untitled , 1999

30(w) x 40(h) cm
12.01(w) x 15.94(h) inches
Ilfochrome print

Stamped and numbered on verso.

Only 200 printed of the edition of 1,000

Edition of 1000
PRICE
$ 1,120.00
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Similarly, many staged performances have been directed by Cattelan and carried out by volunteers. In 1998 he created a comic-book style caricature of Pablo Picasso made from papier-mâché - complete with Picasso’s signature striped T-shirt and sandals - greeting passing-by people outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York during a Jackson Pollock exhibition. An image from the event, coordinated without MOMA’s involvement, became the subject of the photographic print edition Untitled, released by Eyestorm in 1999. In true Cattelan style, the staging was a cheeky parody in which an icon of high modernism is made to act as an icon of popular culture.

Declaring himself retired in 2011, Cattelan is in fact far from retired. Maybe the artist simply considered himself as retired - until un-retired; true to the ethos of never accepting the traditional social norms. In December 2019, Cattelan stole the headlines around the world with his new work ‘Comedian’. The work is in all its simplicity a banana taped to the wall with silvery duct tape. Even the art world was amused - at least for a short moment. What was the artist’s thinking behind the piece? A totally ordinary and perishable banana reportedly bought at a local store in Miami the day before the opening of the Art Basel.

The gallery representing Cattelan defended the artwork saying that the work was more than a banana and a few inches of duct tape. Actually, what a collector buys is a certificate, and the right, to re-create the sculptural piece at will. The certificate comes with a detailed manual on how to recreate the work.

Looking back at Cattelan’s practice, the latest work strikes as a natural next step of his comicality. With ‘Comedian’ the artist has “cut-out” the assistants, previously required to complete his work, requesting the collector to create the artwork based on detailed instructions.

In the following days the global media made a mockery of the art world. But perhaps Cattelan is onto something more than simply delegating the completion of his art to others. The significance of ‘Comedian’, as a piece of art, is its recognition of one of the corner stones in today’s world; the well-defined property right. The right to re-create this artwork by its owner is worth $120,000 because a renowned artist like Cattelan transferred the right to whomever acquired it. To some extent any artwork can be copied, it is only a matter of cost, and for centuries the authenticity has been established by the artist’s signature on the physical work. With ‘Comedian’ the artist almost eliminated the cost of re-creation, made it perishable and left the tangible part to the certificate of authenticity.

The works by Maurizio Cattelan have been exhibited widely in the past two decades. Solo exhibitions have been organised by The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. His work has also been featured on numerous occasions in the Venice Bienniale, L’hiver de l’amour at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, SITE Santa Fe, Kunsthalle Basel and the Whitney Biennial. In 2011 the Guggenheim in New York staged a 21-year retrospective of his work, an exhibition that the artist described as his 'swan song'. Cattelan lives and works in New York and Milan.

The photographic print edition, Untitled, was released exclusively by Eyestorm in collaboration with Maurizio Cattelan in 1999. You can find more details about the edition on Cattelan’s artist page here.
 
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Pink Knickers
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If you own a print, such as Pink Knickers, Green Felt Tip Girl or Red Felt Tip Girl and you wish to sell, we have clients who are looking for select pieces. You can get in touch with us via the Contact page, which you can find here.
 
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