California Italian Studies
All: Maurizio Cattelan's Infernal Comedy
- Author(s): Poggi, Christine
- et al.
In the winter of 2011-12, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum held a retrospective of the work of Italian artist and provocateur Maurizio Cattelan. Instead of the usual chronological display, all 128 Cattelan works were suspended from cables in the central rotunda of the museum in what appeared to some viewers as so many salamis hanging in a shop or marionettes in an abandoned theater. This essay argues that the retrospective, declared by the artist to be his last, instead constituted an intentionally staged, tragi-comic Last Judgment. Cattelan has long been concerned with the themes of failure, guilt, loss, and death. Working with appropriated popular cultural images and arterfacts, he addresses themes including the resurgence of fascism, xenophobia, greed, and the abuse of power, through often shocking collisions of opposing terms. As installed in the Guggenheim, Cattelan's works took on a new site-specific set of meanings and references, provoking an encounter with death and an uncanny afterlife. Viewers were invited to see the works within a new optic, one that draws on the iconography of the Last Judgment to critique attitudes of complacency and indifference.