Art Review#6

Look who is back!


It sounded wrong and hasty. Too soon to be true. But the clamorous announcement of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan during his 2011 Guggenheim retrospective did not convince many and persuaded even less.

After two years he is back, just like this – hosted at Fondation Beyeler in Basel with a whole room just for his five horses. With a story to tell.

“War itself is nothing but a dream”, said Prince Eugene of Sweden. The scenario is one of the WWII and we are in Finland, on the shores of Lake Ladoga. This sentence defines in a nutshell the frame of this latest Cattelan’s work, which is inspired by a novel written by the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte. “Kaputt Primavera” is title of Malaparte’s work and Cattelan has taken a handful of  Malaparte’s work to make yet another masterpiece out of it.

photo: serge hasenböhler, basel, courtesy fondation beyeler, riehen/basel
Photo: Serge Hasenböhler, Courtesy Fondation Beyeler, Basel

Story tells of horses escaping a fire in the woods of Finland and ending up into the lake, just to get killed by another element: water. Frozen water. In the attempt to survive, the horses are sticking their heads out of the water. Like this, with distrurbing  eyes wide open, they shall be found by some soldiers: the huge bodies concealed by the ice and with a last glimpse of life still caught in their pupils.

Catellan’s “Kaputt” shows in a way the other side of the story – or of the dream, if we want.

The heads are the only part of the horses’ bodies we cannot see and it seems like they are stiking it into the wall just to poke around on the other side.

Taxidermied and in healthy shape, the horses suggest nothing depressive or creepy: they are suspended, by all means, in another dimension, in a dreamlike state. Yet the composition has something nightmarish – maybe cause once those magnificent animals were alive and running around green fields and through taxidermy they still look so alive. Maybe cause their heads have been chopped off. It cannot be grasped so easily.

Yet Cattelan has once more managed to “recycle” his work – in this case his series of “Untitled (2007)”, i.e. single horses in the hands of various private individuals and collections around the world (Pinault is of them!) and put them in a historical context as WWII that makes the viewers wonder about super serious themes despite the super funny flavour of the exhibition itself.

Typical Cattelan! This artist  and jokester, better than any other contemporary artists, is always able to lampoon iconic topos and society at large with is humorous irreverence.

And we wish that the retiring announcement was yet another dark joke. As we cannot get enough.

#sorryforthedelay #laundrynight