Brace Yourself, Maurizio Cattelan’s Art Feels Like a Big Slap in the Face

Isaac Perez Solano,

Maurizio Cattelan is always going against the odds with his uncanny ambiguity. Cattelan’s way of art shakes the body, mind and soul. But this is what you would expect, and hope for, from one of the most popular artists in the world. However, just like with poetry, you need to go a little deeper into the depths of Cattelan’s world and explore its complexity to really understand the shock that his work produces in those who take on the risk of observing it or even acquiring it. But before you step in front of his next oeuvre, why not take a safe first step and parse his intriguing answers to the questions below.

A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 14th issue of ODDA Magazine.

Where is Maurizio right now?

You know that saying: When a man knows he is to be hanged, it concentrates his mind wonderfully. I wish I was in front of my personal gallows, just to be sure I’m doing my best.

That’s good to know, because it means you are ready for this: it’s interesting how the art is still very anthropomorphistic even when the anthropocene is considered as the cause of the possible end of the world as we know it. What do you have to say about?

As much as death, worrying about the end of the world is like worrying about the growing of a flower: we are all aware that every process, soon or later, is going to end. What is terrible is when, in people’s lives, there’s nothing left to die: play them the great music of the centuries and they can’t hear it.

Taking your artist self as a reference, what does the ‘representation of reality’ mean for you?

I’m afraid I can’t help you, I’m much more interested in the “presentation of reality”. Representing something implies a good dose of self-esteem and egocentrism, while my preference goes to reality itself.

The world is full of unreal things —despite living in a world with very rough and dark realities. Based on this, to what extent does an artist create reality or virtuality?
I don’t find any difference between reality and virtuality. What really means, from my point of view, is what you believe in or not. People act following their beliefs, no matter their factual and objective presence in our world. Speaking of artists, plausibility and ambiguity should be much more inspiring than virtuality.

Maurizio Cattelan. Bidibidobidiboo, 1996. Installation view: Italics. Arte italiana fra tradizione e rivoluzione, 1968-2008. Palazzo Grassi 27/09/2008 – 22/03/2009.

Artists give a place back to reality —by the way, all your work present volume, bodies, colors, etc. Somehow, an artist creates a concentration of reality because they present some kind of luxury, the luxury of being present again, of reflecting or not, of connecting with our own feelings. Is this your goal?

A man climbs a mountain because he is there. An artist creates a work because it is not there: as the celebratory monuments are demolished at the end of a dictatorship, perhaps in the future nowadays artists’ works will no longer have any sense of existing. It will mean that we have passed a stage of our history, and humanity will look for new works and new artists that imagine them.

What does nihilism mean to you?

I grew up as Catholic, so it’s hard to say that nihilism means anything to me because I do believe in religion. Human beings are religious animals, and such a characteristic feature of human behavior cannot be ignored or dismissed.

Critics have called some of your pieces ‘violent’, but how subjective a statement is in regards of your work?

I’m rather kind of old school, thinking that when an artist does his work it’s no longer his… I just see what people make of it.

You’ve also done fashion. Can you please explain how do you feel about this industry?

What interests me is the overlapping of different areas such as fashion, advertising and art. It has been demonstrated that solutions to difficult problems may come by people not directly involved in the field. I wonder if, in the future, the contemporary art world may be renovated thanks to people from fashion or advertising, and vice versa. Plus, I always found fascinating how glitter is the trait d’union between strip clubs and preschools.

What would be the idea behind you selling a lifestyle?

A bad idea, as simple as this.

On Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back (2017) it is highlighted the fact that you were desperate to find another way of life. Is that true and can you explain more?

The real truth is that I change my mind a lot. I usually don’t agree with what I say very much. I’m an awful liar: I’m not sure whether it is me changing my mind, or whether I lie a lot. It’s somewhere between the two. I don’t exactly lie, I change my mind all the time. People are always throwing things at me that I’ve said and I say that I didn’t mean anything. You can’t stand still on one point for your entire life.

After all, I’m deeply convinced that a known mistake is better than an unknown truth.

Maurizio Cattelan. Untitled, 2007. Installation view: Maurizio Cattelan. Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, March–2007.

You have had previous adventures such as Wrong Gallery, Family Business and now Made in Catteland, a project to explore new possibilities of re-aching the audience through the creation of new spaces of art fruition. What has not been said about this?

At the moment, we’re producing a sort of pilot: Museums League, a series of custom scarves inspired by football team scarves. Museums are becoming a place where sense of community, processes of identification, passion and faith have place. Everyone has her/his favorite art spot, and desire to support it and share their sense of belonging to the art community: among the museums are already listed Solomon Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum, Moma, High Line Art in New York and the Hammer Museum and Moca in Los Angeles. But that it’s just the starting point of a much wider project: we’re working to make Made in Catteland enter everyone’s house soon.

Is there such thing as a “stupid idea”?

Let me quote the lifeguard of the swimming pool where I usually swim at: to him, everybody is a genius. But – he says – if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

…and having said that, what makes you shudder?

I can bear any pain as long as it has meaning.

the writer

Isaac Perez Solano

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