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Artist of the Week: Maurizio Cattelan

September 5, 2010


ARTIST OF THE WEEK: MAURIZIO CATTELANIf any contemporary artist generates a lot of controversy, not just among the general public disapproving of his pieces, but within the art community itself, that artist is Maurizio Cattelan of Italy.

In my opinion his works do have a common theme of unsettling people and making the viewer uncomfortable.  He often has terse answers for the idea behind any particular work, generally saying very little about his motivations for specific pieces, so the meaning of the different works is often hotly debated.  He has frequently been quoted saying that he is only an artist because it’s easy and he does not want to have to work for a living.

Part of the controversy that surrounds Cattelan is whether his art is about the titled works themselves or if his real art is him screwing with the conventions and mechanisms of the art world.  This has earned him the title of “the court jester” of the art world, in the sense of his being a conscious contrarian lampooning the system that he profits from.  Some debate he really is telling the truth and his career is a successful con.

Maurizio Cattelan is strictly a conceptual artist; he does not make anything or handle anything during the process of its creation, he comes up with the ideas and highly skilled professionals are hired to make them.  In one instance, he pulled clothing together to resemble homeless people scattered around an area, but he lacks the skills and education traditional to most internationally successful artists.  This methodology of artist-as-conceptualist is debated as an extension of the Ready-made concept as invented by Marcel Duchamp (except that the Ready-made is made to order by Cattelan, rather than found) and simultaneously debated to be a logical extension from The Factory of Andy Warhol and the descent of professional assembly / manufacturing / industrial modes of creation as passed down from The Factory and used to great commercial success by Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.

Maurizio Cattelan’s work does point to a trend in the current art world of some art works being works created for a location and often on location; what my awesome professor and art author Corey Postiglione calls “post-studio art” – the idea that art has evolved to both be created and exist wholly in a public sphere, having a studio is not needed; and an artist like Cattelan need only declare themselves to be an artist and have their creations pulled together using the means of production afforded to them by existing manufacturers rather than maintain and work in a studio.

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