Maurizio has left the building
by Carolina Corbetta
Simple like a toy yet mournful like a mass hanging
One day I asked Maurizio Cattelan if he had ever thought of substituting Charlie and other “mini-mes” for a son in flesh and blood. “Every work is actually a way to conquer death” was his response*.
I have never believed those who define Cattelan as a prankster whose works are clever jokes. I’ve smiled when looking at some of them, but most of the time I’ve felt a knot form in my throat. Like at the Guggenheim, standing before All, his flawless final feat: it is seductive and simple like a toy yet mournful like a mass hanging. Cattelan had the courage to sacrifice one hundred and twenty- eight creatures that he’d made over a career spanning more than twenty years – the beloved ones as well as the disowned – for his one hundred and twenty-ninth work of art. It is the most beautiful of them all because it projects such a strong image, but contains weakness and missteps.
Like every worthy artist, Cattelan is engaged in a desperate and beautiful struggle against the very concept of death. In this way the subject matter is constantly evoked. All is, among other things, an attempt to suspend time, to delay the end. It freezes more than twenty years in an eternal present in which every hierarchy among the various works is removed. It is an unorthodox anthology that becomes a synchronic and infinite act.
After all, the balancing of lightness and weight is the key to Cattelan’s success. He has exploited the “great void” of the Guggenheim’s iconic rotunda, defeating the narcissistic, sadistic gesture with which Frank Lloyd Wright confined the art of the museum to the galleries along the ramp. He has put his own spectacular architecture at the centre.
Overturning spatial perspective, All invites visitors who ascend the ramp to see the life, death and miracles of Maurizio Cattelan whirl before their eyes like a film with no end.
* in KLAT magazine, no. 2, 2010
NOTE: Text published in Maurizio Has Left the Building, a project by Pierpaolo Ferrari and Sebastiano Mastroeni. Published by Le Dictateur Press, March 2012
Photo by Pierpaolo Ferrari