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Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan

Italian artist
Maurizio Cattelan
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Italian artist
Is Artist Sculptor
From Italy
Type Arts
Gender male
Birth 21 September 1960, Padua
Age 60 years
Star sign Virgo
Maurizio Cattelan
The details


Maurizio Cattelan (21 September 1960, Padua, Italy) is an Italian artist. He is known for his satirical sculptures, particularly La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), depicting Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteorite.

Early life

Cattelan started his career in the 1980s making wooden furniture in Forlì (Italy), where he came to know some designers, like Ettore Sottsass.

He made a catalogue of his work, which he sent to galleries. This promotion gave him an opening in design and contemporary art. He created a sculpture of an ostrich with its head buried in the ground, wore a costume of a figurine with a giant head of Picasso, and affixed a Milanese gallerist to a wall with tape. During this period, he also created the Oblomov Foundation.

Artistic style

Cattelan’s personal art practice has led to him gaining a reputation as an art scene’s joker. He has been described by Jonathan P. Binstock, curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art "as one of the great post-Duchampian artists and a smartass, too". Discussing the topic of originality with sociologist, Sarah Thornton, Cattelan explained, "Originality doesn't exist by itself. It is an evolution of what is produced. [...] Originality is about your capacity to add."

Cattelan is highly recognized for several works that utilize taxidermy, a practice of his that flourished during the mid-1990s. These works are designed to connect humans and animals through the projections of human emotions which the former places on the latter. One piece called Novecento (1997) involving a horse named Tiramisu, once a racehorse, alludes to a sense of hopelessness and resignation. The horse hangs by a harness at its center from the ceiling with a drooping posture, head hanging below its torso, and dangling limbs. Another popular work utilizing taxidermy and anthropomorphic features is Bidibidobidiboo (1996), a miniature depiction of a taxidermied squirrel slumped over its kitchen table, a revolver at its feet. The sort of human failure conveyed through these animals is a common theme across many of Cattelan's pieces. Not Afraid of Love (2000) consists of an elephant sculpture hiding under a large white sheet, touching on the elements of escape, shame, and concealment surrounding failure. In 1999 he started making life-size wax effigies of various people, including himself. One of his best known sculptures, ‘La Nona Ora’ consists of an effigy of Pope John Paul II in full ceremonial dress being crushed by a meteor and is a good example of his typically humorous approach to work. Another of Cattelan’s quirks is his use of a ‘stand-in’ in media interviews equipped with a stock of evasive answers and non-sensical explanations.

Between 2005 and 2010 his work has largely centered on publishing and curating. Earlier projects in these fields have included the founding of “The Wrong Gallery”, a store window in New York City, in 2002 and its subsequent display within the collection of the Tate Modern from 2005 to 2007; collaborations on the publications Permanent Food, 1996–2007- with Dominique Gonzalez Foerster and Paola Manfrin- and the slightly satirical arts journal "Charley", 2002–present (the former an occasional journal comprising a pastiche of pages torn from other magazines, the latter a series on contemporary artists); and the curating of the Caribbean Biennial in 1999. Along with long-term collaborators Ali Subotnick and Massimiliano Gioni, Cattelan also curated the 2006 Berlin Biennale. He frequently submitted articles to international publications such as Flash Art.

Cattelan’s art makes fun of various systems of order – be it social niceties or his regular digs at the art world – and he often utilises themes and motifs from art of the past and other cultural sectors in order to get his point across. Cattelan saw no reason why contemporary art should be excluded from the critical spotlight it shines on other areas of life and his work seeks to highlight the incongruous nature of the world and our interventions within it no matter where they may lie. His work was often based on simple puns or subverts clichéd situations by, for example, substituting animals for people in sculptural tableaux. Frequently morbidly fascinating, Cattelan’s dark humour sets his work above the simple pleasures of well-made visual one-liners.

Maurizo Cattelan utilizes media to expose reality as well as blur the lines between reality and myth. Several of Cattelan’s works play off of the modern day spectacle culture. This is a culture that harbors such an immense obsession with images, that the obsession might be easily comparable to idolatry. If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There is No One Around It, Does It Make a Sound (1998) is a piece that exemplifies this idea flawlessly. The work consists of a taxidermied donkey with its head bowed low, carrying a television on its back. It is meant to conjure up the image of Christ riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, for Palm Sunday. The television taking Christ’s seat on the Donkey serves a blatant representation of media culture’s replacing tradition as the new object of praise. Hollywood (2001) also refigured a current reality in front of a new context. The whole of the work entails a giant replica of the southern California Hollywood sign overlooking a dump in Palermo, Sicily. Cattelan urges viewers to place images in new contexts that aid in conveying his own perception of current media. Even with Cattelan’s satirical depictions of media culture however, he is an artist who understands all of its sides, whose “career has also been marked by…an awareness that artworks exist primarily as images that only gain power with reproduction.”

Cattelan’s manipulation of photos and his publications of magazine compilations such as Permanent Food and Charley did not come about without their influences. The artist attributes his love of finding the uncanny, the silly, or the seductive in just about any mundane or sensational object, as traceable to the works of Andy Warhol. As Cattelan states, “That’s probably the greatest thing about Warhol: the way he penetrated and summarized our world, to the point that distinguishing between him and our everyday life is basically impossible, and in any case useless.” Permanent Food and Charley differ in sophistication. Both consist of crude layouts, having magazine pages compiled together torn from outside sources. The latter, however, was backed by a wide list of recognizable and credible curators. His most recent publication, Toilet Paper, differs greatly from the two previously mentioned, as its photographs were originally planned and designated solely for the magazine. The level of originality for this magazine surpassed the others, providing the audience vague, oddly familiar photographs to peruse through. Toilet Paper is a surrealist pantomime of images that the viewer cannot easily trace back to a starting point, while they’ve most likely been conjured by popular culture. It is a whirlwind of loud colors mixed in with the occasional black-and-white photo: “the pictures probe the unconscious, tapping into sublimated perversions and spasms of violence.”

Selected works

  • One of his most discussed art works is "ghost track": in December 2009 for his solo show in Milan there was a "strange" similarity between the puppets representation of himself and Massimo Tartaglia (Silvio Berlusconi attacker in December 2009). The media effect and many similarities with La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) suggest that "ghost track" is truly a ghost art work of Maurizio Cattelan.
  • Turisti, his new work for the 2011 Venice Biennale made up of 2,000 embalmed pigeons.
  • L.O.V.E (2011), a 36-foot white marble sculpture middle finger sticking straight up from an otherwise fingerless hand, pointing away from Borsa Italiana in Milan.
  • HIM (2001): a sculpture resembling a schoolboy kneeling in prayer, except that the head has been replaced with the realistic likeness of Adolf Hitler. The sculpture was frequently displayed at the end of a long hallway or at the opposite end of a white room, turned away from the viewer so that they wouldn't be able to recognize the individual until they advanced close enough.
  • "Britney" (2010) sculpture of his wife nude
  • One of his most famous artworks is a sculpture of Pope John Paul II hit by a meteorite, titled La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), made in 1999. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London as part of the prestigious Apocalypse show, and was sold at Christie's for $886,000.
  • At the 1999 Venice Biennale, Cattelan created Mother, a project that involved an Indian fakir, who practiced a daily ritual of being buried beneath sand in a small room, with only his clasped hands visible.
  • Turisti (Tourists) (1997), taxidermied pigeons and fake pigeon feces exhibited in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 1997
  • In 1997, at the Consortium in Dijon, Cattelan dug a coffin-shaped hole in the floor of the museum's main gallery to acknowledge his own frailty in the face of having to mount a museum show.
  • Another Fucking Readymade (1996): For an exhibition at the de Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam, he stole the entire contents of another artist’s show from a nearby gallery with the idea of passing it off as his own work, until the police insisted he return the loot on threat of arrest.
  • For Errotin, le vrai Lapin (1995), he persuaded his gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin to wear a giant pink rabbit costume shaped like a phallus to Cattelan's gallery opening
  • Working Is a Bad Job (1993): At the 1993 Venice Biennale he leased his allotted space to an advertising agency, which installed a billboard promoting a new perfume.
Untitled, 2001 (2001), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  • Untitled, 2001 (2001), installation created for the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam that depicts the artist peering mischievously from a hole in the floor at a gallery of 17th-century Dutch masters.
  • As part of the 2001 Venice Biennale, he erected a full sized HOLLYWOOD sign over the largest rubbish tip on Palermo, Sicily.
  • Daddy, Daddy (2008) was initially premiered in the group exhibition theanyspacewhatever (2008–09) at the Guggenheim Museum. The piece is especially unique in that it utilizes the museum exhibition space. It is made up of a small pool at the bottom of the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda where a life-size Pinocchio doll lies face-down, giving the idea that he has jumped or fallen from above: "Cattelan's life-size effigy of a beloved fairytale character lying face down in the museum's fountain reads as a crime scene replete with questions of intent: suicide, homicide, or ill-planned escape?" Daddy, Daddy was also featured more recently in the Guggenheim's 2015 summer exhibition of Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim.
  • ILa Rivoluzione Siamo Noi (We are the revolution) (2000), features a miniature Maurizio Cattelan, dangling from a Marcel Breuer–designed clothing rack. In this depiction, Cattelan seeks to sets himself apart from the German artist Joseph Beuys, countering Beuys' statement, "every man is an artist," with his own, "I am not an artist."
  • The photograph Don't Forget to Call You Mother (2000) was utilized as a show invitation card, upon its introduction, by the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York City. "The sign ironically reminds customers of their mothers' worries each time they approach the bar to drink...in mimicking this stern parental directive, the sign draws on attitudes regarding authority, independence, and disobedience" (Susan Thompson).

Magazine projects

From 1996 to 2007, together with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Paola Manfrin, Cattelan published 15 issues of Permanent Food: a magazine built by pages torn from other magazines.

In 2009, Cattelan teamed up with Italian photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari to create an editorial for W Magazine's Art Issue. In 2010, they founded the magazine Toiletpaper, a bi-annual, picture-based publication. As part of a public art series at the High Line in 2012, Toiletpaper was commissioned with a billboard at the corner of 10th Avenue and West 18th Street in New York, showing an image of a woman’s manicured and jeweled fingers, detached from their hands, emerging from a vibrant blue velvet background. In 2014, Cattelan and Ferrari produced a fashion spread for the Spring Fashion issue of New York Magazine.

In the project entitled 1968, A Toiletpaper collaboration between Maurizio Cattelan, Pierpaolo Ferrari and the Deste Foundation in Athens, Cattelan celebrates the works and time of Dakis Joannou and his collection of radical design. "1968 is a collection of dreams and nightmares, an inspiring compendium of colorful, ironic materials, objects, and bodies. Toiletpaper's interpretation of the collection results in mind blowing photographs that trap us in a complex system of references, crossing layers, three dimensional and real time collages. 1968 is a rainbow, the memory of a storm and the positive projection of a newborn sun: the history plus the future, masterly shown in the drawings by one of the primary characters of the radical design movement, Alessandro Mendini, who adds a vital contribution to Toiletpaper's visuals."—P. [4] of cover.

On opening night of the Maurizio Cattelan retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum of New York, a Hummer stretch limo with the words “TOILETPAPER” printed on the side was not-so-discreetly parked outside the museum. The images in the magazine might appear to have been appropriated from world’s most surreal stock-photograph service, but they’re all made from scratch. “Every issue starts with a theme, always something basic and general, like love or greed,” Cattelan has explained. “Then, as we start, we move like a painter on a canvas, layering and building up the issue. We always find ourselves in a place we didn’t expect to be. The best images are the result of improvisation.” Many images are rejected, he said, because they’re “not Toiletpaper enough.” What makes a Toiletpaper photo? “We keep homing in on what a Toiletpaper image is. Like distilling a perfume. It’s not about one particular style or time frame; what makes them Toiletpaper is a special twist. An uncanny ambiguity.”


Cattelan's work has been on view in numerous solo exhibitions, at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Artpace, San Antonio, Texas; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Project 65 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; as well as at Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Le Consortium, Dijon; the Hôtel des Monnaies, Paris; and Wiener Secession, Vienna. A major retrospective, assembling 130 objects of Cattelan's career since 1989, opened in 2011 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Cattelan has also exhibited at Skulptur Projekte Münster (1997), the Tate Gallery, London (1999), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2003) and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2003), and participated in the Venice Biennale (1993, 1997, 1999, and 2002), Manifesta 2 (1998), Luxembourg, Melbourne International Biennial 1999, and the 2004 Whitney Biennial in New York. In 2004, Cattelan exhibited the controversial sculpture Untitled featuring 3 hanging kids for the Nicola Trussardi Foundation. In 2012, he participated in the group show Lifelike originating at the Walker Art Center. Cattelan came out of retirement to create "Maurizio Cattelan: America," his latest exhibition on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. For “America” Cattelan replaced the toilet in the museum with a fully functional replica cast in 18-karat gold.


Cattelan was a finalist for the Guggenheim's Hugo Boss Prize in 2000, received an honorary degree in Sociology from the University of Trento, Italy, in 2004, and was also awarded the Arnold Bode prize from the Kunstverein Kassel, Germany, that same year. A career prize (a gold medal) was awarded to Maurizio Cattelan by the 15th Rome Quadriennale.

On 24 March 2009, at the MAXXI Museum of Rome, the singer Elio of the Elio e le Storie Tese, who announced that he was the real Cattelan, came to receive the prize.

Art market

In 2004, one of Cattelan's best-known older pieces, a suspended, taxidermised horse titled The Ballad of Trotsky, was sold to Bernard Arnault in New York for $2.1 million (£1.15 million). Par Peur de l'Amour, a sculpture of an elephant hiding under a bedsheet that simultaneously conjures a child on Halloween and a Ku Klux Klan uniform, sold at Christie's in 2004 for $2.7 million. Maurizio Cattelan's Untitled (2001) was sold at an auction at Sotheby's 2010 for $7.9 million. The artist's proof of Him(2001) was sold at auction by Christie's in 2016 for $17,189,000.

Cattelan is represented by Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris, Massimo de Carlo in Milan and Marian Goodman Gallery in New York.


Cattelan appeared on American television program 60 Minutes. In 2016, a documentary about his life and work The Art World's Prankster: Maurizio Cattelan was broadcast on BBC.

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