Art provocateur Maurizio Cattelan sells off a slice of history in New York
By Pei-Ru Keh
Despite his much-publicised retirement in 2012, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has far from disappeared. There are several quirky collaborations on the go, like the artzine ToiletPaper, created with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari. And now the provocateur is back in the gallery spotlight, thanks to ’Cosa Nostra’, a selling show of the artist’s work newly opened in New York. Displayed at two locations - the Upper East Side galleries Venus Over Manhattan and Sotheby’s S|2 - the works were gathered from private collections, with prices expected to start at $30,000 and soar to $2 million.
Touted as the largest and most comprehensive showing of the artist’s work since his Guggenheim retrospective in 2011, ’Cosa Nostra’ showcases many of Cattelan’s most memorable pieces. There are animal-centric creations, like the ’Untitled’ sitting cow with motorcross handles for horns, and the Italian pavilion-inspired ’Turisti’ (1997), which sees taxidermy pigeons scattered throughout the gallery. The more scandalous sculptures pose likenesses of JFK, Hitler and the Pope in all sorts of controversial situations. Both venues offer a rare chance to catch Cattelan’s famous works in the flesh.
Venus Over Manhattan has created a suspenseful environment inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s ’Door, 11 rue Larrey’ to present its pieces. The space is split into seven rooms, with dark-painted walls creating mysterious chambers, each containing a single piece. The works are visible through portholes, windows and keyholes set within different wooden doors, heightening the sense of drama already palpable in the works. By contrast the collection at S|2 is presented in a room lined with mirrors that magnify the twisted, surreal nature of Cattelan’s oeuvre.
To cap things off, visitors can see the trailer for the documentary Maurizio Cattelan: The Movie, 15 years in the making. Directed by Maura Axelrod, who has been filming Cattelan since 2000, the intimate portrait of the artist features interviews with close family and friends and exclusive archival footage - and sheds light on the personal origins of Cattelan’s many themes. The film is scheduled for release in the summer of 2015.