Spreading fear and mayhem in the visual arts.

Maurizio Cattelan


Maurizio Cattelan

The scene of crime: a little taxidermied squirrel appears to have committed suicide by shooting itself with a tiny handgun at a yellow kitchen table (perhaps driven to suicide by the sink full of squirrel sized washing up nearby....).

In Cattelan’s installation Bidibidobidiboo, the viewer searches for a world within a world, a domestic narrative within a domestic environment, under the roof of a public space.

By dislocating the experience from the white cube of the gallery space to familiar environs, Cattelan shifts the art experience from the public realm into the personal.

By reducing the human experience to a miniature diorama, Cattelan exaggerates the fragility of life. Bidibidobidiboo balances a child-like innocence and humour with violence or death.

While on the surface Bidibidobidiboo entertains, on closer consideration the tragic condition of comedy unfolds. The artist reminds us that laughter heals — not as escape but as a release of our experiences.

Cattelan’s works blur the boundaries between art and entertainment, performance and reality. Situationist humour is key to his work. His sculptures, installations, actions and performances manage to subtly criticize the dominant structures of cultural production, questioning the politics and media, hierarchies and class systems that define contemporary life.

Today, Cattelan is successful enough an artist to engage assistants for the technical production and the maintaining of his artworks.

For Another Fucking Readymade (sic!), he broke into a gallery and stole another artist’s entire show to exhibit as his own. He produced a doctor’s certificate to get out of attending an opening, and once hung a sign on the locked gallery door that read, "I’ll be right back," leaving viewers perpetually waiting. Yet, despite this evasion, the art world has become charmed by his games, perhaps enjoying the laughter at its own expense.





Short biography

1960 Born in Padua, Italy

1993 Group exhibition "Aperto 93"

1995 Exhibition @ Kwangju Biennial

1997 Represents Italy at the 1997 Venice Biennale
(alongside with Enzo Cucchi and Ettore Spalletti)

1997 Sculpture project "Munster"

1998 Represents Italy at Manifesta 98

1999 Organizes the 6th Caribbean Biennial

Published Work (selection):

2000 Monograph by Phaidon


(Excerpt from an interview by Jan Estep, New Art Examiner)

JE: Getting back to the way your work often has a double read, do you think you are serious or playful?

MC: (whispers) I am sad.

JE: You’re very sad? That’s the dominant emotion in your life?

MC: Yes. No.

JE: What is the daily inspiration for your work?

MC: I’m not able to tell you, because with the work, what you see is what I think. I am producing something probably that I have seen somewhere; nothing so far has come out of my mind. I am a copier. I’m like a Xerox machine.

JE: What about La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), the piece in which a meteor fells the Pope? Is that cynical? (c.f. 1st image sample below)

MC: Yes. The Pope is the authority. When I was in Basel to install the piece it took me two days to decide to put my hands on his body. At first it was the Pope standing up in a very large space, and then we decided something else had to be done. It was a joke but then for me it wasn’t a joke; it was very difficult to physically touch the piece.

JE: What about Him, in which a miniature Adolf Hitler is kneeling in prayer? (c.f. 2nd image sample below)

MC: That piece was more about fear: a symbol of fear, an icon of fear.

JE: But it is so small.

MC: It’s little, because you can be angry about someone, but there is a way to break the loop. Both of them have been so difficult to touch.

JE: Because of their social history?

MC: Because it is not an easy argument to make; they’re about a certain evilness, which belongs to everyone to different degrees. You don’t know if he’s praying to have six more million people to kill, or for forgiveness. The piece was presented in February 2001 in Stockholm and we made some pictures of what it was supposed to look like, to show the position we wanted for it, but I didn’t see the final piece until the day before the opening and I went there with the idea that the piece was meant to be destroyed. But when we opened the crate, I said, "Jesus Christ," so it worked. Why is he kneeling? Because it works. Why is he praying? Because it works. Because it’s a shock.


Eyestorm article on Cattelan

DesignBoom interview with Cattelan

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