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Published by Sugar & Cream, Monday 13 May 2024

Images and text courtesy of Gagosian

April 30 – June 15, 2024|Curated by Francesco Bonami

We are completely immersed in violence every day, and we’ve gotten used to it. The repetition has made us accept violence as inevitable.
Maurizio Cattelan

Gagosian is pleased to announce the opening of Sunday, Maurizio Cattelan’s first solo gallery exhibition in more than two decades and his solo debut at Gagosian. Similar to America—a functional solid gold toilet that he installed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 2016—Cattelan’s new project, which is on view at the gallery’s 522 West 21st Street location, once again challenges the contradictions of American society and culture, and touches on sensitive issues faced by the world at large.

In a new installation, Sunday (2024), Cattelan compounds the response to economic inequality embodied by America (2016), using precious metal to deconstruct the country’s relationship to the accessibility of weapons (a condition against which privilege affords no defense). Panels of stainless steel, plated in 24-karat gold, have been “modified” by gunfire. The components’ formerly smooth surfaces are left riddled with craters and holes, evoking a history of guns in art that stretches from Edouard Manet’s The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1868–69) to Chris Burden’s Shoot (1971) and William Burroughs’s shotgun paintings.

Visitors to Gagosian’s 21st Street location are immediately confronted by a towering, 17-foot-tall wall of the gilded panels that stretches some 68 feet wide. In front of it is November (2024), a marble fountain that portrays a slouching figure urinating on the ground. Cattelan characterizes the work as “a monument to marginality,” an image of a reality that we habitually ignore. Echoing Manneken Pis (1619), a famous public sculpture of a boy urinating into a fountain, it presents the viewer with an uncomfortable contravention of societal norms. But, as Bonami demands, “If you’re free to buy an assault rifle in a department store, what’s wrong with pissing in public?”

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Cattelan traces the opulent composition of both new works back to the Catholic spiritual tradition in which he was raised, also pointing out that the ease of melting down and reusing gold gives the material a fungible, unfixed nature that allows it to effectively disappear. Even when dealing with such sensitive subjects, however, he remains a “Sunday” artist at heart, avoiding explicit judgment in favor of presenting reality as he observes it.

Born in Padua, Italy, in 1960, Cattelan is one of the most provocative figures in the art world. Often dismissed as a prankster, he is a deeply political artist whose work investigates issues that affect us all. In Sunday, Cattelan affirms his ability to address art history and current affairs simultaneously, presenting them as two parallel but paradoxically convergent tracks. Cattelan is, in the words of the exhibition’s curator Francesco Bonami, “the most famous Italian artist since Caravaggio.” While the claim may seem overblown, the popularity of the artist’s recent exhibitions at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, and the Leeum Museum of Art, Seoul, confirm his ability to engage both art-world audiences and a global public.

Cattelan’s exhibition The Third Hand is on view at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, until January 12, 2025. His work is also on view in With My Eyes, the Vatican’s exhibition for the Holy See Pavilion at the 60th Biennale di Venezia, through November 24, 2024.

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