Referred to by many as the art world’s resident prankster, Cattelan is a huge fan of the practical joke. He has been known to use “stand-ins” for interviews who provide stock, nonsensical answers – often sending his friend, curator Massimiliano Gioni, to fill in for him. For Errotin, le Vrai Lapin (1995), Cattelan persuaded his gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin to wear a giant pink rabbit costume shaped like a phallus every day for the duration of his show. Four years later, for a show in Milan, he affixed his gallerist Massimo De Carlo to the wall with adhesive tape, in a manner not entirely at odds with a crucifixion. In 1996, for an exhibition at de Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam, he stole the entire contents of another artist’s show from a nearby gallery with the idea of passing it off as his own, until the police insisted he return the pieces on threat of arrest. He named the work Another Fucking Readymade. Duchamp would have approved. (And indeed Cattelan is often compared to the father of Dada in both content and form.)
Although Cattelan’s work is based on humour and irony, a strong preoccupation with mortality underlies his practice, as often seen through his recurring use of taxidermy. In Bidibidobidiboo (1996), a despairing squirrel has committed suicide in his tiny, grimy kitchen; in Untitled (2007), a horse has apparently gone headfirst into a wall. Death is never far away in his work. Today Cattelan, along with his long-term friend and collaborator Pierpaolo Ferrari, produces the experimental art magazine, Toilet Paper. A snapshot of modern society and popular culture, the hyper-real picture-based biannual investigates and exposes our obsession with imagery and how commercial photography and advertisements manipulate the way we see the world. Beautifully curated and executed, with each surreal image created from scratch, Toilet Paper is a delightful assault on the senses and sensibilities.
When asked why he chose the three artists featured in this issue’s art section, Cattelan replied: “As always happens with me, it all began with a mental picture. I believe they visually go along together very well. And, of course, I respect very much their work.”