Maurizio Cattelan is a playful and dark prankster-artist. Blending the sinister, the irreverent, and the uncommon, Cattelan has played a joke on our eyes by creating a chaotic massive hanging piece at the Guggenheim this fall, leading one to wonder what the judges on food shows ask out loud frequently: Does this all go together as one dish or do they work more as separate pieces?
The Guggenheim’s long, winding stairway is the most fitting architecture for this assemblage and enables a view from all perspectives, allowing one to notice new details at each level on the same object (e.g., a human claw on the top of a box with a strapped-down woman, a squirrel at a desk). The pieces are minimally cohesive by the nature of coming from the same boisterous mind and play off each other in that they have similar styles; and they are stagnant and do not communicate with each other visually or thematically. The different objects at each level appear haphazardly placed with no clear intention: why is the Pope at the bottom, the upside-down double cops at the top? Is this suggestive of some idea of turmoil or blasphemy? Whether or not each level has reason (e.g., the nine circles of Dante’s hell) remains a mystery. Cattelan is not so eager to make some overarching grandiose theme– as his playfulness emerges again in the multiple taxidermied pigeons over the entire piece, suggesting that he does not take his own pieces seriously. He may recognize that they are now mere objects and no longer relevant to our current times like an old sculpture languishing in a park.
However, as a whole, the visual appeal of the collection is not transcendent. Is there more that ties the pieces together beyond the ropes? That is not apparent and does not elevate the pieces — ironically– beyond the strength of each as individual pieces. Furthermore, the “App Centers” (the app is narrated by John Waters) make it all seem more like a whimsical marketing gimmick than a sublime exhibit.
Perhaps Cattelan’s latest constellation is really the unexpected result of the social media overhyping phenomenon and not enough offensive and irreverent images to make an impact after all the pent-up excitement, the opening party with MGMT, the promotions… Or are we now just desensitized to what used to be the frontier of the offensive and edgy?? Give us more, our tastebuds cry. Leaving this exhibit, our desire to be moved and offended remains unsatisfied.