This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.
turisti (Tourists) is the pointed and humorous title Maurizio Cattelan gave to the stuffed pigeons he exhibited in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 1997. Curated by Germano Celant, the 1997 Venice Biennale took as its central theme, the mixing of the generations in Post-War Italian art. Cattelan, as one of the younger Italian artists though one whose work in fact follows strongly in the tradition of modern Italian art responded to this challenge in a typically idiosyncratic way.
Confronted with a vast amount of space with which to fill Cattelan, not for the first time in his career, felt somewhat overawed by the scale and grandeur of the occasion. In New York, when presented with a similar large space for his first exhibition in the city in 1994, Cattelan had exhibited one of his many modest and mocking self-portraits in the form of a live donkey, who, living, eating and shitting in a gallery adorned only with a chandelier, formed a witty comment on Cattelan's rise to prominence in the New York art world. For Celant's 1997 Biennale, Cattelan responded to the empty space of the room with a work that again reflected the "open work' of the Italian arte povera artists of the 1960s by, in effect leaving the exhibition space room exactly the way it was when he first saw it. As he explained, "The 1997 Biennale for me was very exciting. And I think Germano Celant's idea of mixing the generations was the best solution to the Italian problem...I had gone to see the pavilion in Venice about a month before the opening of the exhibition. The inside was a shambles and it was filled, really filled, with pigeons. For me as an Italian, it was like seeing something you're not supposed to see, like the dressing room of the Pope. But then again, that is the situation in Venice, so I thought I should just present it as it is, a normal situation. And of course, where there are pigeons, there is pigeon shit." (Interview with Nancy Spector F. Bonami, N Spector, B Vanderlinden, Maurizio Cattelan, London, 2000, pp. 18-22).
Adding stuffed pigeons and fake pigeon shit to the empty and undisturbed pavilion, these turisti of the title of the work also reflect the human turisti who travel to Venice every two years to see its biennale. Like so many of Cattelan's animal sculptures - his suicidal squirrel, horse in limbo or hiding ostrich - their mirroring seems to demonstrate human weaknesses, limitations and failings. Perched above the rafters of the Italian Pavilion, they are art objects that mimic their audience of visitors, seeming to be also duped witnesses of an empty pavilion. In emphasising the empty space of the pavilion, through these birds, Cattelan was also drawing on another pervasive theme in Post-War Italian art, the notion of time as a defining element of space. "I guess if there was anything really provocative about this work it was in its relationship to time", Cattelan has said, "Time doesn't affect this place; basically all the Biennales look the same. If I could, I would love to set up the same show twice in two consecutive Biennales. I think that no-one would notice. So I installed the birds and the birdshit to prove that everything stands still in that place, that 'Time goes by so slowly'- that is another song." (Ibid.)