Things you should know about… Maurizio Cattelan

Billboard for the High Line

Maurizio Cattelan is an enigmatic Italian artist whose work manages to evoke both admiration and anger, both laughter and embarrassment. Maurizio Cattelan’s art is often said to be provocative. Yes, that is right. Provocation in art is a very respectable strategy, traditional since the end of the 19th century, and highly respected by avant-garde art.

Maurizio Cattelan`s artworks have nothing to do with political correctness. All of them give an unexpected and critical, ironic, and sharp response to the problems of the surrounding reality.

Maurizio Cattelan`s art is full of cheerful perversity, it constantly points out to artistic, economic, and political structures their deep apathy and self-sufficiency.

Cattelan’s provocations are sophisticated and rich in meaning.

Praying Hitler

This one of Maurizio Cattelan`s artworks was made for an exhibition in Munich. Cattelan showed the Germans their greatest shame. Exhibited Hitler was in the building of the House of Arts, built with him specifically for Nazi exhibitions. Cattelan plays with context – with history, with the genius of the place.

Cattelan is a postmodernist. It is very important for a postmodernist to work with cultural heritage.

 At the dawn of his creative activity, when his first solo exhibition opened, he closed the gallery, went away, and left a note – “I left, I’ll be there soon.”

A little later, Cattelan arranged an exhibition Another fucking ready-made, for which he stole works from another artist’s exhibition and passed them off as his own. Moreover, he stole it honestly, without agreeing with anyone – the police later came to him with a dog, and threatened him. Thus, the artist rethought the way of acquiring finished products.

At the 1993 Venice Biennale, Cattelan rented out his exhibition space to a perfume company that advertised there. Thus, he has already worked with the theme of the commercialization of contemporary art.

Like any normal person, Cattelan loves children and animals. But, as a postmodern provocateur, he loves them cruelly at first glance.


Maurizio Cattelan`s artwork is about a squirrel who committed suicide. It is of great importance here that the squirrel is not a plastic or wax model, but a real stuffed animal. The product is definitely environmentally friendly. For this abstractly humanistic work, a real effigy was used in order to actualize the duality of our civilization, its two poorly combined sides – the struggle for nature and the struggle with nature. The theme is revealed in an unconventional way, as is always the case with Cattelan.


Here, the cat skeleton is not real. Through this one of Maurizio Cattelan`s artworks, the artist wants to tell about the quite possible future, when the remains of a banal cat will become a museum exhibit like a dinosaur skeleton.

In 2012, the Guggenheim Museum in New York hosted Cattelan’s grand retrospective of Everything. The Guggenheim is a spiral ramp rising around a tall hole. Pictures, in theory, should be hung along this ramp, on a single wall. But Cattelan, as it were, turned the exhibition space inside out and hung his works on the other side of the ramp, in a hole.

Exhibit view at the Guggenheim Museum


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