Cattelan’s works over the last twenty or so years have utilized irony, sarcasm, and just plain silliness to create an array of pieces that deal with issues surrounding power, identity, and death. He frequently uses visual gags to make his point and whether you are tapped into the art world or not, his pieces never feign self-importance.
label speaks not only to his taste for irreverence and the absurd, but also his profound interrogation of socially ingrained norms and hierarchies, subjects historically only available to the court fool.
his pieces can make you laugh, and at worst they can urge you to continue onto the next piece without feeling like an idiot for not getting the joke.
In his work, contradictions in the space between what the artist describes as softness and perversity wage a sarcastic critique on political power structures, from notions of nationalism or the authorities of organized religion to the conceit of the museum and art history.
Cattelan brought his bad taste to New York's Museum of Modern Art when, in 1998, he arranged for an actor in an over-sized cartoon Pablo Picasso mask to meet and greet visitors. Cattelan said he was satirising the postmodern museum and its similarity to a high-cultural Disneyland. He was impressed MoMA put up with such a cruel joke against itself.
The exhibition at The Menil Collection, organized by Franklin Sirmans, curator of modern and contemporary art, will be the artist’s first solo show in Texas.
At his London gallery Anthony d'Offay in 1999 he showed a black sepulchral slab that was a simulacrum of Mai Lin's Vietnam war memorial in Washington DC. Instead of the names of dead GIs, however, he neatly engraved the score of every defeat the English national football team has suffered in sombre columns across the monument. This was a fantastic double national insult for the Italian-born artist to display in London
"My aim is to be as open and as incomprehensible as possible. There has to be a perfect balance between open and shut."
Maurizio Cattelan was born in Padua, Italy, in 1960. Cattelan, who has no formal training and considers himself an “art worker” rather than an artist, has often been characterized as the court jester of the art world.
Ave Maria, 2007, a series of saluting arms that extend from the wall; the translated title “Hail Mary” remains intentionally ambiguous
These days Cattelan scoops at least $200,000 (£110,000) for every new piece. Did he expect to do so well? "No. I did the same thing in other fields in the past and I was treated as an idiot. In this field, I don't understand why, I'm doing the same things and it's appreciated. As long as people say, 'Here the idiot counts,' why change what I do?"