Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan

HIM, depicting Hitler kneeling in prayer in a courtyard in the former Warsaw Ghetto
Born (1960-09-21) 21 September 1960
Padua, Italy

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.[1] 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".[2] 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."[3]

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.[4] 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.[5][6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.”[9]

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.”[9] 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.[10] 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.”[9]

Selected works

Untitled, 2001 (2001), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

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.[23] 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.[24] In 2014, Cattelan and Ferrari produced a fashion spread for the Spring Fashion issue of New York Magazine.[25]

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.[26][27]

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; 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.[28][29] 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.[30] 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.[31]


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.[28] A career prize (a gold medal) was awarded to Maurizio Cattelan by the 15th Rome Quadriennale.[32] On 24 March 2009, at the MAXXI Museum of Rome,[33] the singer Elio[34] of the Elio e le Storie Tese, who announced that he was the real Cattelan, came to receive the prize.[35]

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).[36] 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.[37] The artist's proof of Him(2001) was sold at auction by Christie's in 2016 for $17,189,000.[38]

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.



  1. WORTH, ALEXI. "A Fine Italian Hand." New York Times Magazine (2010): 68. Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 16 November 2011.
  2. A Head of His Time: Exploring the commodious nature of art, Gene Weingarten, reprint at Jewish World Review, January 21, 2005
  3. Thornton, Sarah (2014). 33 Artists in 3 Acts. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 152. ISBN 9780393240979.
  4. Roberta Smith (November 3, 2011), A Suspension of Willful Disbelief New York Times.
  5. Maurizio Cattelan, February 12 – August 15, 2010 Menil Collection, Houston.
  6. "The greatest little gallery on earth". The Guardian. 2005-12-20. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  7. CAROL, VOGEL. "Don't Get Angry. He's Kidding. Seriously." New York Times 13 May 2002: 1. Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 16 November 2011.
  8. "Arts Curriculum". Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Spector, Nancy, and Maurizio Cattelan. "Catalogue [1989-2011]." Maurizio Cattelan: All. New York, NY: Guggenheim Museum Publications :, 2011. Print.
  10. Lokke, Maria (2011-11-18). "Maurizio Cattelan's Toilet Paper". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  11. Ghost Track (Duomo Place, Milan 2009) Images that prove a "strange" similarity between the puppets representation of himself and Massimo Tartaglia
  13. Christina Passariello (May 13, 2011), At Milan's Bourse, Finger Pointing Has Business Leaders Up in Arms Wall Street Journal.
  14. Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960) La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour)
  15. Maurizio Cattelan, February 22 - March 25, 2000 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
  16. Maurizio Cattelan, turisti, 1997 Christie's, 9 February 2005, London.
  17. Maurizio Cattelan, Una Domenica a Rivara (A Sunday in Rivara), 1992 Phillips de Pury & Company, London.
  18. 1 2 3 Maurizio Cattelan: All, November 4, 2011 – January 22, 2012 Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  19. Maurizio Cattelan Guggenheim Collection.
  20. "Collection Online | Maurizio Cattelan. Daddy, Daddy. 2008 - Guggenheim Museum". Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  21. "Collection Online | Maurizio Cattelan. We are the Revolution (La Rivoluzione siamo noi). 2000 - Guggenheim Museum". Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  22. Maria Lokke (November 18, 2011), Maurizio Cattelan’s Toilet Paper The New Yorker.
  23. Carol Vogel (May 31, 2012), A Cattelan Billboard for the High Line New York Times.
  24. Portfolio: Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari’s Surreal Take on the New Season New York Magazine, February 7, 2014.
  25. Cattelan, Maurizio. 1968. Athens: Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art/Toiletpaper, 2014. Print.
  26. "Koha online catalog › ISBD view". Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  27. 1 2 Maurizio Cattelan Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
  28. "Whitney Biennial 2006 :: Day for Night". Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  29. Sheets, Hilarie M. (April 19, 2012). "Use Your Illusion". ARTnews. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  30. "Maurizio Cattelan: "America"". Guggenheim. 2016-05-12. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  31. Cattelan Wins Career Award from Quadriennale di Roma «Artinfo» 27 March 2009. URL referred on 31 May 2009.
  32. (Italian) Maurizio Cattelan conquista la XV Quadriennale d'arte di Roma. «Libero»/«adnkronos». 24 March 2009. URL referred at «» on May 31, 2009..
  33. (Italian) Premio a Cattelan, ma si presenta Elio «Il Tempo», 25 March 2009. URL referred on 31 May 2009.
  34. (Italian) Cattelan receive the prize at MAXXI, Rome. (swf). 24 March 2009. Video at Rome Quadriennale website. URL referred on 31 May 2009..
  35. John Hooper (19 July 2005), Former lover accuses Cattelan of stealing her ideas The Guardian.
  36. Sotherby's TV(
  37. Christie's auction results for 'Bound To Fail' sale
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