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Maurizio Cattelan

Italian Sculptor and Conceptual Artist

Maurizio Cattelan Photo
Movement: Conceptual Art

Born: September 21, 1960 - Padua, Italy

"Laughter is a Trojan horse to enter into direct contact with the unconscious, strike the imagination and trigger visceral reactions."

Maurizio Cattelan Signature

Summary of Maurizio Cattelan

In the grand kingdom of the art world, Maurizio Cattelan has established himself as its court jester. With a fool's irreverence and the freedom of a Conceptual artist unbound to singular voice or traditional medium, he seeks to jostle the status quo. Whether he guides us toward interrogating socially ingrained norms, or pinpoints our darker human struggles and uncomfortable emotions, he does it all with a misfit's mischievous sense of humor. Whether the joke is on us, or flipped back upon him, his work pokes fun at, and helps connect us to, our common human foibles.

Key Ideas

Although the title fits, Cattelan has always refused being called an artist-provocateur. Instead, he claims that he is merely holding a mirror up to society, and in fact, considers himself more of an "art worker" than artist. In fact, many times he doesn't make his own work and often his work is contrived of nothing but temporary actions or statements.
The concepts of failure and mortality appear often in Cattelan's work. His investigations into these heavier themes of the human condition, though, are fraught with a morbid sense of comedy that allows for an overall lightening of the load.
Cattelan often works in contradiction or double meaning, making work that points out one perspective, yet simultaneously leads us to reflect upon its opposite. In this regard, he tricks us into experiencing dual roles of our common humanity; judge and accused.
Although his work can be seen as post- Duchampian, Cattelan evolves the ready-made, or the concept of art as absurdity, by layering it with intentional messages of underlying cynical or social implication.
Cattelan often works with taxidermy animals and hyperrealist sculpture to stage his visual jokes. Both lend themselves well to his niche of constructing realistic settings that upon closer inspection become quite uncanny.
Maurizio Cattelan Photo

Maurizio Cattelan grew up in the northern Italian town of Padua. His father was a truck driver, his mother a maid, and the family struggled financially. Always a misfit, he disliked school, received poor grades, and constantly found himself in trouble. Art Historian Sarah Thornton explains that Maurizio's mother was ill for most of his childhood and died when he was in his early twenties. The artist feels that she blamed him for her illness, perhaps sparking his early conflicts with the concepts of failure and mortality that would later pepper his artwork. After dropping out of high school, he worked a series of unfulfilling jobs in post offices, mortuaries, and kitchens in order to support his family. Through all of these early experiences, he learned to mistrust authority and to abhor the monotony of manual labor.

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