Maurizio Cattelan is Dead: Life and Work, 1960 - 2009 (June 28 - August 23)
Update: This exhibition is in the collection of the Deste Foundation, Athens.
Years before the artist's actual death, Triple Candie presented a post-humorous retrospective on the life and art of Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960). The exhibition, which looked like an educational primer on its subject, was conceived in the form of a detailed timeline with extensive wall-texts, all of which were factual and exhaustively researched. The show included no actual artwork. Instead, it included photocopies and printouts of Cattelan's work (including the Caribbean Biennial, the 4th Berlin Biennial, and The Wrong Gallery), a handful of sculptural recreations (a homeless man, a rope made out of bed sheets), surrogates that stood in for absent sculptures but which looked only marginally like the originals (a black bicycle, stuffed pigeons, a miniature man sitting on a bookshelf), props that function like biographical artifacts (a bloody pen, a package of hot dogs, a religious figurine with a hand-painted mustache), two fake prototypes (a stuffed dog, a cat skeleton), vinyl quotes by Francesco Bonami and Cattelan, and 2 posters designed especially for the occasion (a commemorative poster, a power-list). In the Case Room, we presented ersatz examples of Permanent Food and Charley -- Maurizio's two magazine projects.
From the Exhibition's Introductory Wall Text:
Maurizio Cattelan (Italian, 1960 - 2009) was a con-artist and a populist philosopher whose art embraced what might be called a comic existentialism. He began his career in a small city in Northeastern Italy, worked briefly as a furniture designer before turning to art, and in a very short time built an illustrious career through a mix of savvy resourcefulness and puckish deceit. His brilliance stemmed, in part, from an uncanny ability to make work perfectly suited for the times -- times characterized by a proliferation of international biennials and a booming art market. In 2004, one of his sculptures sold at auction for three million dollars. When he died, he was living in New York City.
Despite his tremendous success, Maurizio lived a life full of doubt and guilt. At every opportunity, he tried to do himself in. He put a gun to his head at his parent's kitchen table and, wearing a Pinocchio suit, leaped from the Guggenheim Museum's spiral ramp to the reflecting pool below. Though these attempts were unsuccessful, he spent years preparing for the day when he would finally get it right. He dug himself a grave (in a museum floor) and designed himself a tombstone with the epitaph "Why Me?". Maurizio's life was a tragic farce.
This posthumous exhibition is the first retrospective of Maurizio's work, and it is presented without the involvement (or permission) of his agents or family, and without his actual artwork. We suspect that the very idea of a retrospective would have been abhorrent to him. During his life, Maurizio almost always exhibited no more than a single artwork at a time, presenting it in isolation to heighten its visual impact. Showing so much of his work together invariably runs the risk of reducing his career to an accumulation of sight gags. We hope that to the contrary, it will illuminate patterns of unexamined meaning.
We don't yet know what finally killed Maurizio. Was his death of his own doing, the result of exhaustion or over-exposure? Or was it the system that finally did him in, a system which, despite all the artist's efforts to remain elusive and mysterious, had effectively pinned him like a specimen to the wall? We don't have the answers; we only have the evidence.