Stephanie

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  • Provenance


    Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris

  • Catalogue Essay

    Like a Virgin
    By MASSIMILIANO GIONI
     
    Maurizio Cattelan likes to mix affection with a dose of confrontation, particularly when it comes to dealing with those in positions of power. Most notoriously, Cattelan has directed this tough love in the direction of his gallerists. In 1994, he convinced his legendarily promiscuous dealer Emmanuel Perrotin to sport an unwieldy, pink costume, resembling a hybrid of a rabbit and a phallus, for the duration of Cattelan’s show (Errotin le Vrai Lapin, 1994). In 1999, he staged a secular crucifixion by duct taping his Milanese dealer Massimo De Carlo to a gallery wall, in a performance that eventually ended with De Carlo having to be rushed to the hospital (A Perfect Day, 1999). However, Cattelan has also directed below-the-belt jabs toward his high profile collectors, particularly those who commission works from him. In 2002, for instance, when Cattelan was commissioned to create a piece for London dealer Ben Brown, he produced a life-sized, hyperrealistic waxwork likeness of his recently deceased grandmother which was installed in  Brown’s refrigerator (Betsy, 2002). Recently, in response to a commission request from collector François Pinault, Cattelan proposed a tombstone bearing the epitaph “Pourquoi moi?”
     
    Cattelan’s work Stephanie, 2003, a portrait commissioned by newsprint magnate and magazine publisher Peter Brant of his wife Stephanie Seymour, is a similarly double-edged work. For the commission, Cattelan employed the talents of his frequent collaborator, Daniel Druet, a highly regarded Parisian waxwork sculptor, who spent two years working with Cattelan on the project. The result was a lifelike, nude waxwork of Seymour, a legendary supermodel whose image has graced over three hundred magazine covers. Designed to be mounted on the wall, the piece turned the effigy of Stephanie Seymour into a literal trophy wife. Cattelan found inspiration for his portrait during a visit to Brant’s palatial residence in Connecticut, where he apparently remarked that among Brant’s many impressive trophies, which include world-class holdings of Warhol, Basquiat, Koons, and Lichtenstein, as well as numerous mounted heads of large and exotic game, his most remarkable was certainly Seymour herself. As a result, Cattelan’s portrait resembles nothing so much as a prize commemorating a particularly rarified catch from a high-stakes social safari: like the neck of a gazelle, Seymour’s voluptuous form arches gracefully out of the wall, hands demurely cupped to her breasts, hair perfectly coiffed on the occasion of the Phillips de Pury auction by worldrenowned stylist Frédéric Fekkai (fig 1). With a becalmed, regal look on her face, she is the very picture of beauty, frozen in the headlights.
     
    Stephanie certainly has mischievous overtones that suggest Cattelan may have been having fun at his commissioner’s expense, but the work also resonates in ways that pushes it beyond the bounds of a simple prank. Most readily apparent is Stephanie’s resemblance to a ship’s figurehead, the often elaborate, carved-wood figures that adorned the prows of ships between the 16th and 19th centuries (fig 2). In more recent history, these figures, which largely took the shape of either women or animals, were used to either relay the name of the ship, or to display the wealth of the ship’s owner — a similar function to that of an art collection or, for that matter, a trophy wife. Originally, however, ships’ figureheads were thought to protect the ship to which they were fastened from the malevolent forces of the sea. With this in mind Stephanie takes on a more ambiguous meaning — part bauble, part talisman, her figure both connotes opulence, and exudes maternal warmth and safety.
     
    In addition to Stephanie’s association with nautical ornamentation, the work should also be viewed in terms of its relation to the history of portraiture, and particularly to the history of the representation of women. When seen in this light, Cattelan’s Stephanie becomes instilled with yet more layers of possible meaning. On the one hand, Stephanie’s comely physique, the seductive placement of her hands, and her buoyant, ringleted tresses, place the work in the tradition of the odalisque, updated for the era of Victoria’s Secret. On the other, her placid, resolute look and the classical symmetry of her features and her pose recalls that of religious statuary, suggesting that the work can also be seen as a devotional icon, erected not in honor of any religious doctrine, but in tribute to love, womanhood, or, perhaps, celebrity. Both pinup and Madonna, Stephanie, like many of Cattelan’s works, plays a cat-andmouse game with meaning, eluding any easy categorization.
     
    However, despite the fact that Stephanie occupies a not so easily definable place in the history of portraits of women at large, the work bears immediate relation to some of the more renowned portraits of women held in the recent history of art. Andy Warhol’s portraits of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, for instance, are similarly immortalizations of famous women, who were, like Seymour, also sexual icons. Furthermore, Jeff Koons’ Woman in Tub, 1988 (fig 3), though it is rendered anonymous due to the truncation of the titular woman’s head, shares overt similarities with Stephanie in terms of both pose and content: both feature a nude female figure covering her breasts with her hands, her elbows jutting out symmetrically from her torso, though Koons’ work is more explicitly sexualized. Finally, Stephanie also shares something of the cartoonish quality of Lichtenstein’s comic strip ingénues, who, like Seymour herself, seem almost too perfect to exist in the real world. That Stephanie should find a comfortable home in Brant’s collection is, of course, unsurprising, as Cattelan’s portrait was commissioned for just this purpose. But, ever the provocateur, Cattelan also made sure that Seymour’s portrait would stray beyond the walls of Brant’s home: rather than create a unique work, he produced Stephanie in an edition of three, two of which were to be sold by Cattelan’s dealers, just like any other of his non-commissioned works. Cattelan’s last nip at the hand that feeds him, the editioning of Stephanie served as gentle reminder that though Brant had bagged his trophy wife, he was nevertheless obliged to share her, both with the public at large, by way of her career as a model and actress, and with other collectors, by way of Cattelan’s masterfully complex waxwork. (M. Gioni, The Wrong Times, 2003)

12

Stephanie

Executed in 2003
Colored pigment, wax, synthetic hair, glass, metal.
43 5/16 x 25 9/16 x 16 9/16 in. (110 x 64.9 x 42.1 cm).
This work is from an edition of 3 plus 1 AP.

Estimate
$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

sold for $2,434,500

Carte Blanche

8 November 2010  6pm
New York