This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Maurizio Cattelan says farewell to the art world in spectacular retrospective (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Ave. at 89th St.
Friday - Wednesday through January 22, $18 (pay-what-you-wish Saturday 5:45-7:45)
Book signing Monday, January 9, 6:00
maurizio cattelan: all slideshow

Throughout his career, Italian visual artist and provocateur Maurizio Cattelan has been giving the middle finger to anyone and everyone he can, both literally and figuratively. He regularly stands convention — and policemen — on its head in conceptual works that range from putting a sign on a gallery door that says “Be back soon” (“Torno subito”) to placing a thirty-six-foot-high middle finger, titled “L.O.V.E.,” in front of the Milan Stock Exchange, courting controversy wherever he goes. For a career retrospective that also supposedly represents his retirement from the art world, the fifty-one-year-old Cattelan vetoed a chronological arrangement of his oeuvre situated in the Guggenheim’s bays and instead opted to have 128 of his pieces hung from the museum’s ceiling to create a brand-new, 129th work, a kind of mass execution in the form of a child’s deranged mobile (or should that be “a deranged child’s mobile”?) that offers a fond farewell, one final middle finger saying goodbye. And what a goodbye it is.

Maurizio Cattelan hangs himself in effigy in Guggenheim retrospective (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

As visitors make their way up the Guggenheim’s winding path, they are greeted by a vast collection of taxidermied animals (including a squirrel that has committed suicide, various sleeping dogs, and a horse with a wooden sign reading “INRI” above it), children hanging from their necks, Nazi salutes, the pope crushed by a meteorite, a woman clutching her breasts, a miniature man sitting atop a safe, a kneeling Adolf Hitler, an elephant draped in a KKK hood, a shopping cart, a barefoot JFK in his coffin, a chessboard composed of heroes and villains, a boy sitting at a desk with pencils pierced through his hands, an elderly woman in a refrigerator, a giant foosball table, and, yes, the enormous hand in which all fingers but the raised middle one have been cut off. Cattelan is also physically present in the installation, hanging in effigy wearing a Joseph Beuys suit on a Marcel Breuer clothing rack and with his last name shining in white neon script. Each turn offers museumgoers a fresh perspective on Cattelan’s work, with revolving juxtapositions placing the seemingly chaotic arrangement into continually changing contexts, resulting in an endless array of new comparisons that dazzle and delight. Even the interactive app associated with the show is unusual and offbeat, hosted by John Waters and featuring interviews with artists, critics, gallerists, and curators. Although “All” is filled with so many references to death, at its heart it is really a celebration of the oddity of life, an exciting and dare we say, fun retrospective that only a character like Cattelan could have put together. The exhibition closes on January 22 with the pay-what-you-wish panel discussion “The Last Word,” in which approximately twenty artists from a multitude of disciplines, including writers, comedians, philosophers, filmmakers, and many others, will gather together to talk about Cattelan’s impending career shift from 6:00 pm through 1:00 am. In addition, Cattelan will be at the Guggenheim on January 9 at 6:00 to sign copies of the exhibition catalog and celebrate the release of the new issue of Toilet Paper, with the museum remaining open until 7:45 and the store until 8:15 that night.

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