Maurizio Cattelan - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Tragedy Through Humour


    Best known for his wit and spoof-like installations, the serious intent of Cattelan’s work is often enigmatic. Through postmodern interventions and experimental sculpture, his messages have multi-dimensional layers for the viewer to dissect. Lullaby, 1994, is one of two works created of layered sacks filled with rubble from an explosion at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC) in Milan. In 1993, a Mafia-related terrorist event which killed five people instigated much public outcry. The plastic bags weighed with debris sit on wooden pallets, two individual structures, side by side. For Cattelan, ‘the highest form of human art is tragedy.’i His works embody mortality, fear and courage- characteristics of the human pathos. 


    Cattelan’s body of work has been critically acclaimed with global exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Musée du Louvre, Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and The Menil Collection, Houston to name a few. He is also no stranger to Bienniales as he had participated at the Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennale. Working in New York and Milan, he is represented by Perrotin and Marian Goodman.

    Maurizio Catellan in Venice
    Maurizio Catellan in Venice. Image: Errebi/AGF/Bridgeman Images.

    Art as a Form of Escape


    Maurizio Cattelan was born in Padua to a working-class family and spent much of his youth labouring common jobs. Having suffered from lymphatic cancer throughout his childhood and adolescent, he was desperate for change. Cattelan turned his attention to art and channelled his trauma into humour, displaying emotional scenes of irony through objects and visual art. He once stated, ‘I am not really sure satire is the key to my work. Comedians manipulate and make fun of reality, whereas I actually think that reality is more provocative than my art. You should walk on the street and see real beggars not my fake ones. You should witness a real skinhead rally. I just take it; I’m always borrowing pieces – crumbs really – of everyday reality. If you think my work is very provocative, it means that reality is extremely provocative, and we just don’t react to it. Maybe we no longer pay attention to the way we live in the world. We are increasingly … how do you say, ‘don’t feel any pain’… we are anaesthetized.’ii Inspired by Duchamp yet not appropriating objects for face value as ready-mades do, Cattelan’s unorthodox approach to art makes strong references to the Arte Povera movement and pays homage to the culture of the post-war era. He is seen as the anti-artist as his works reveal a certain anxiety about artistic production.



    Toujours, el museo como testigo, transcribed:


    'The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is known for the manner in which he disregards convention. 


    By using established symbols and combining them with a humoristic tone and irony, Cattelan tries to get the spectator to question things like immigration, terrorism, religion and death. 

    He principally works with sculpture and installations. This piece has an important story: In 1993 a bomb detonated near the Contemporary Art Pavilion in Milan leaving 5 survivors and the pavilion completely destroyed.

    Lullaby consists of bags containing the rubble from the pavilion that Cattelan gathered, as well as what remained of the art that was found inside the building.

    Therefor the piece is a hybrid of the ‘ready-made’, the objective being that the artist has modified the material by situating it in a new context thus creating a new discourse.

    By creating a work of art with these materials, Cattelan consecrates the tragic moment of the bombing and in this manner conserves the works of art that were lost.'

    i Maurizio Cattelan quoted in ‘I Want to Be Famous – Strategies for Successful Living: Interview with Barbara Casavecchia 1999,' Maurizio Cattelan, London, 2003, p.132
    ii Maurizio Cattelan quoted in Francesco Bonami, Nancy Spector and Barbara Vanderlinden, eds., Maurizio Cattelan, London, 2003, p. 17

    • Provenance

      Massimo De Carlo, Milan
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Laure Genillard Gallery, Maurizio Cattelan, 28 January - 5 March 1994 (another variant exhibited)
      Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris/ ARC, L'hiver de l'armour, 10 February - 13 March 1994 (another variant exhibited)

Property from an Important Northern European Collection



wooden pallet, rubble and plastic wrap, in 2 parts
each 88 x 122 x 85 cm (34 5/8 x 48 x 33 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1994.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Director

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 21 October 2020