Upon entering the Rotunda floor and looking up at Cattelan’s work hanging from the ceiling I found myself with a feeling of amusement and thinking, this might not be so bad.
I made my way to the top and walked down and this feeling of amusement disappeared, replaced by nothing. Usually when one comes across contemporary work a feeling of either interest and joy or disgust and contempt occurs but literally I felt nothing.
So suffice to say, I will not write a screed against this exhibition as that would be validating it or giving it import that it has not earned.
I received in the post the other day “Other Criteria -Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art” by Leo Steinberg. The first essay “Contemporary Art and the Plight of its Public” dates from 1962 and is pertinent to my thoughts. To summarize, the essay addresses the shock of discomfort that one feels when confronted with an unfamiliar style and from there using his own, Steinberg's awakening to the value of Jasper Johns work, from discomfort to a more profound understanding of it he makes a case for new work. I highly recommend that you get this book, outstanding writing and essays that are still pertinent.
But what I find with Cattelan’s work is a feeling or lack, in direct contradiction with the essay mentioned.
The press release for Cattelan informs us, “Hailed simultaneously as a provcateur, prankster, and tragic poet of our times, Maurizio Cattelan has created some of the most unforgettable images in recent contemporary art.” oh if that were true.
So without further ado- my thoughts or questions
Do a series of jokes told en mass become a work of art?
Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?
Does the conglomeration make the new entity a whole?
Would these works stand up individually in situ?
Museum as circus- Barnum and Bailey
Art Povera or poverty art?
If this work were to go up in flames like Courbet’s Stonecutters in Dresden would it be missed?
Museum as reflection of petite bourgeoisie?
Art as funhouse, museum funhouse.
Cattelan, art spectacle as death?
Looking up from the floor it looks great but then wouldn’t anything hung in such a way?
I kept waiting for the sound of a snare drum after each punchline.
To view these in a traditional way of sculpture would be a mistake for there is no weight to them, the traditional thinking of mass and volume do not apply. The tableaus, as that is what they really are, are nothing more than physical representations of visual ideas that one could easily imagine seeing in a magazine, in fact I suspect the reproduction aspect is more important than the actual work itself.
This is an art made for the art industry and Cattelan plays his part perfectly to the crowd, the errant bad boy and despite the so called making fun of the art world, I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it too.
The Roberto Benigni of contemporary Italian Art.