Eyestorm, London, United Kingdom

Untitled by Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan Biography

Padua, 1960

Jokes and pranks are common in art but what makes Maurizio Cattelan special is that his are funny. Funny peculiar and funny ha-ha. Cattelan is a knowing and sophisticated artist who teases the art world without ever falling into the naive trap of thinking he can subvert a system of which he is part. He specialises not in Dadaist aggression but in slight shifts of reality that are a bit pathetic, a bit embarrassing, a bit silly. In 1994 he persuaded his Paris dealer Emmanuel Perrotin to spend a month dressed as a giant pink phallus. Errotin Le Vrai Lapin was striking precisely because it was so ludicrous: aggressive anti-art gestures and extreme acts have long since been accommodated into commercial art dealing, but to have a dealer make a fool of himself goes some way beyond the call of duty, and of chic.

Born in Padua, Italy, in 1960, Cattelan did not attend art school but taught himself. Cattelan brought his bad taste to New York's Museum of Modern Art when, in 1998, he arranged for an actor in an over-sized cartoon Pablo Picasso mask to meet and greet visitors. Cattelan said he was satirising the postmodern museum and its similarity to a high-cultural Disneyland. He was impressed MoMA put up with such a cruel joke against itself.

In fact Cattelan has a subtle sense of the paradoxes of transgression, the limits of tolerance. At his London gallery Anthony d'Offay in 1999 he showed a black sepulchral slab that was a simulacrum of Mai Lin's Vietnam war memorial in Washington DC. Instead of the names of dead GIs, however, he neatly engraved the score of every defeat the English national football team has suffered in sombre columns across the monument. This was a fantastic double national insult for the Italian-born artist to display in London - but, of course, it would have been far more blasphemous to show it in the US. The joke was about proportions and comparisons; about the way soccer fans take the game as seriously as war, about different national memories.

Football and Vietnam recur in Cattelan's humour and are typical of the extremes of levity and seriousness between which his art oscillates. In 1991 he made Stadium, an enormously lengthened table-football game designed to be played by two teams of eleven players. It is an example of the play on miniaturisation - art as a miniature world, the art world as a miniature society - that runs through his work. Stadium uses as many players as a real soccer game to play a 'pretend' game; Cattelan has formed his own team in Italy, A.C. Forniture Sud (A.C. Furniture Supplies) to take on all comers. The members of the team are Senegalese immigrants who have suffered racism in Italy. As with the war memorial the game of table football mimics real war.

The violence is even closer in Charlie Don't Surf (1997), a sculpture named after a piece of brutal dialogue in the Vietnam film Apocalypse Now. 'Charlie' is a small figure in a hooded coat sitting with its back to the viewer at a cramped school desk. Installed at Castello di Rivoli, Turin, the sinister stranger recalled not just Hollywood's Vietnam but the red-coated child/murderer in Don't Look Now. Except, coming closer, we see that this stranger, this alien is no threat, but a victim. Two pencils driven through both palms nail its tiny hands to the desk. Cattelan's jokes can pack a powerful punch.

Statement by Maurizio Cattelan on Untitled 1998: I made a caricature of Picasso in the manner of Walt Disney: striped Tee-Shirt and sandals. An actor wearing a mask of Picasso's face and this outfit was welcoming the public at the entrance. The most incredible thing is that the MOMA accepted this project despite the fact of him, showing the drift of American museums into excessive marketing. The public, coming to see an exhibition of Jackson Pollock, understood so well my concept that they thought it was Jackson Pollock himself welcoming the public!


Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris


'Maurizio Cattelan', Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2000

Anthony D'Offay, London, 1999

Project room, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998

Castello di Rivoli, Mus'e d'Art Contemporain, Italy, 1997

'Errotin, le vrai lapin', Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, 1995


'Apocalypse', Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2000

'Aperto over all', organized by Harald Szeemann, 48e Biennale de Venise, Italy, 1999

'Signs of Life', International Biennale of Melbourne, Australia, 1999

'Abracadabra', Tate Gallery, London, 1999

'Delta', Mus'e d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France, 1997

'Fool's Rain', ICA, London, 1996


Cattelan, Maurizio, Maurizio Cattelan, Centre d'art de Br'tigny-sur-Orge & Le Consortium, Dijon; Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, 1998

Cattelan, Maurizio, Maurizio Cattelan, Castello di Rivoli, Mus'e d'Art Contemporain, 'dition Charta, Italy, 1997

Cattelan, Maurizio, Maurizio Cattelan, Wiener Secession, texte de Francesco Bonami, WienKultur, Austria, 1997

Delta, Mus'e d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France, 1997

Aperto 93, text by Francesco Bonami, Biennale de Venise, 1993

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