Exhibition room 5. Maurizio Cattelan

Hailed simultaneously as a provocateur, prankster, and tragic poet of our times, Maurizio Cattelan has created some of the most unforgettable images in recent contemporary art. His source materials range widely, from popular culture, history, and organized religion to a meditation on the self that is at once humorous and profound. Working in a vein that can be described as hyperrealist, Cattelan creates unsettlingly veristic sculptures that reveal contradictions at the core of today’s society. While bold and irreverent, the work is also deadly serious in its scathing critique of authority and the abuse of power.

Source: The Guggenheim Museum www.guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/past/exhibit/3961

Maurizio Cattelan produced what may be the ultimate parody of the MoMA/Picasso paradigm in an exhibition at the Museum in 1998. [...] Cattelan designed a costume featuring a gargantuan enlargement of Picasso’s head and a replica of the shirt. For the run of the show, an actor wearing this costume interacted with visitors. Performing like a carnival character, he became the Museum’s mascot, greeting visitors, posing for photographs, and signing autographs. As Cattelan explained, Picasso was “the greatest magician and entertainer in twentieth-century artistic practice”—pointedly not the greatest artist, Cattelan implied, but his characterization captures a common view of Picasso during his last years.

By choosing to represent Picasso in his seventies, Cattelan deftly blunted Picasso’s authority; he masked Picasso’s early, pioneering career with the image of his later decades, considerably less respected at the time. Besides poking fun at Picasso as MoMA’s signature artist, Cattelan called attention to MoMA’s self-promotion as a tourist attraction and to the art-world tendency to glorify celebrity artists. In the process, he augmented his fame and the Museum displayed an unexpected sense of humor about itself.

Source: exhibition catalogue for “Post-Picasso: Contemporary Reactions,” Michael FitzGerald