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Details
Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960)
Untitled
stainless steel, wood, electric motor, electric bell, electronic control device, incandescent and LED lights and plastic
elevators: 13¾ x 23 3/8 in. (34.9 x 59.3 cm.)
overall: 23 9/16 x 33 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. (59.8 x 85.4 x 47.9 cm.)
Executed in 2001. This work is number four from an edition of ten plus two artist's proofs.

An example from this edition is in the permanent Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (2)
Provenance
Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002
Literature
F. Richard, "Marianne Boesky Gallery and Friedrich Petzel Gallery - Reviews - Penetration, curated by Mark Fletcher," Artforum, vol. 41, no. 2, October 2002, p. 154.
F. Bonami, N. Spector, B. Vanderlinden and M. Gioni, eds., Maurizio Cattelan, London, 2003, pp. 176-177 (another example illustrated in color).
M. Dailey, "Peter Norton: Collecting with a Conscience," Guggenheim Magazine, Winter 2004, n.p.
Exhibited
Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall and Red Brick Warehouse, Yokohama International Triennale of Contemporary Art: Mega-Wave, September-November 2001, pp. 26 and 390 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, on permanent exhibition, 2001-2004 (another example exhibited).
New York, Marianne Boesky Gallery and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, Penetration, June-August 2002 (another example exhibited).
Paris, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Opening of the Gallery Space at 76 rue de Turenne, on permenant exhibition, January 2005-present (another example exhibited).
New York, The FLAG Art Foundation, Size DOES Matter, February-May 2010, pp. 12-13 and 83, no. 12b (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection, March - July 2011 (another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

A chime sounds, an elevator door whooshes open, and we are ushered into the hidden world of Maurizio Cattelan... Or we would be if we were a fraction of our size. Created in 2001, Untitled presents the viewer with a meticulously-constructed miniature elevator bank, as seen in office and apartment blocks throughout the world. This anonymous feature, a vehicle of transit used by millions of people every day, has been submitted to a playful transformation through the miniaturization that is one of Cattelan's hallmarks, becoming in the process a work of art, a toy-like absurdity, an impossible lift seemingly embedded within the fabric of the viewing space. An example of Cattelan's elevator is owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it has often become a source of fascination for viewers, with its functioning controls, its "authentic" sounds, and the sense of a hidden world of mini-mystery embedded within the walls.

Cattelan has taken a singularly prosaic and institutional subject matter for Untitled, yet has used it as the basis for something that is completely engaging and even, in its implications, poetic. This elevator recalls the world of fairytales and cartoon characters, of Tom Thumb, Lewis Carroll, and Tom and Jerry; its doors open onto an arena for characters such as Cattelan's own deckchair-lounging taxidermied mice from 1997 or perhaps rising up to the floor where the suicidal squirrel sits slumped dead over his kitchen table in Bidibidobidiboo from the year before. Like Untitled (2000), which features a small arched hole in a wall with a door, a bin from which light and the sounds of a domestic squabble emanated, Cattelan has straddled the visual languages of entertainment, humor, and the everyday life. It is in this ambiguous zone of the uncanny that he mines his wit while transforming our own understandings of everyday life.

In a sense, the notion of the elevator is loaded with potential significance. Apart from implying that, within the viewing space, there exists a Lilliputian world unseen by the viewers there is also the aspect of implied movement. While the elevator chambers do not in fact function behind the wall, sound effects convey a sense that the elevator is fully operational. Through these means, Untitled taps into an incredibly loaded realm of metaphor. This elevator, with its two doors and two chambers, becomes a contemporary rendering of, Jacob's Ladder the vision described in the Bible in which angels were seen climbing up and down between Heaven and Earth. Cattelan, whose controversial 1999 work La Nona Ora showed a lifelike model of the then Pope having been struck by a meteorite, is no stranger to themes touching upon aspects of religion, a highly emotive topic in much of the world and not least in his native Italy. Similarly, a more recent work from 2009 features a horse, preserved through taxidermy, shown on its side on the floor with a stake sticking out inscribed with the Latin acronym, "INRI" (Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm), "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John 19:19). While those two works clearly and provocatively strayed into the world of taboo through their transformation and repurposing of religious motifs, Untitled approaches potentially biblical subject matter in a different sense, presenting it through the filter of a disenfranchised modern perspective.

The never-ending chiming and whirring of the elevators also tap into a dual sense of the absurd. On the one hand, by dint of their scale, they become playful yet somehow pointless, a notion underscored by the fact that the lifts do not in reality move. On the other hand, these mechanical elevators also harness a potent sense of the futility of modern existence itself. In addition to the story of Jacob's Ladder, Cattelan has managed to create a modern reimagining of the myth of Sisyphus. Where the Greek king, punished by the gods according to legend, was forced to push a stone to the summit of a hill from which it would always tumble, so too the imaginary and invisible protagonists in the implied narrative of Untitled find themselves locked in a world of repeated and often mindless tasks. The French philosopher Albert Camus famously used Sisyphus as a parable for the repetitive tasks demanded of modern industrial life: "The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious" (A. Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus," quoted in R.C. Solomon & K.M. Higgins, The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy, Belmont, 2010, p. 49). Cattelan, with unconcealed mirth, is himself pointing us toward a moment of such consciousness. Yet in his hands, such absurdity may retain a hope and a humor absent from Camus' vision. After all, the simple fact that the scale of this pair of elevators recalls toys and dolls' houses introduces a sense of play that perhaps also offers Cattelan's way out of the existential labyrinth of modern life: embrace the absurd; revel in it; laugh along with it. Cattelan is encouraging us to see not a tragic bottom line, but instead, a punch line.

That he has managed to do so with such a deceptively simple and everyday motif as an elevator is a mark of Cattelan's nuanced vision. Cattelan often finds solutions to his artistic quests with an intense clarity, with an elegant, if bold slice of the Gordian Knot: "The challenge is to do something that looks 'classic' and yet is still strange... All the ideas and themes in the world already exist and belong to everyone; there isn't really much that we as artists can invent" (Cattelan, quoted in A. Ruiz, "Free for All: Interview with Alma Ruiz," pp. 146-56; F. Bonami, Maurizio Cattelan, London, 2005, p. 150). Nonetheless, Cattelan has consistently staked out his own distinctive territory, presenting those pre-existing themes in a new manner (and indeed sometimes presenting pre-existing works in a new manner, as when in 1996 he stole an entire exhibition from another artist and labeled it Another Fucking Readymade). There is often, as here, an antic and wry charm in his works, which allows him to explore themes relating both to humanity and art itself. In the case of Untitled, Cattelan plays with notions of art and representation in a number of ways.

In the present work, the nature of representation is itself thrown into question. If a picture of a subject can be smaller than its subject, why not its very reconstruction? The viewer looking at Untitled is well aware of the fact that the machinery behind the wall almost certainly does not work. Thus, this installation occupies similar territory to the "two-dimensional" easel painting: while remaining deliberately deficient, planar, in fact, it creates only the illusion--through the movements and sound effects--of the three-dimensional elevator. The removal that is enacted by reproducing the three-dimensional, or even four-dimensional, world on a flat surface is thus thrown into relief by Cattelan's work. The processes of abstraction by which a painting or a sculpture, modeled on reality, are created is here exposed through Cattelan's parallel process, by which he has created something that has the painstakingly-conjured appearance of a lift, down to the sounds and the fluorescent lights, yet which is clearly detached from the reality that it represents.

Cattelan invites us to suspend our disbelief, begging us to imagine the mouse or the "mini-me" who might use such a fictitious contraption. The imagined movements of the lift behind the wall, and the imagined realms to which it travels, invoke hidden realities, hidden meanings, in the manner that so many other artworks function as spurs to the senses and to the imagination. It comes as no coincidence, then, that many of Cattelan's artworks also play with the notion of the surfaces of the exhibition space, as well as of the artwork itself. In other pieces over the years, he has created a caricature likeness of himself emerging from a hole in the floor of the exhibition space, allowing him to seem like a thief penetrating the very fabric of that area. In another famous installation, he filled a gallery with soil in which he placed a live faqir, whose hands, clasped in prayer, emerged from the surface. His unconventional attitude to the placement of his artworks is itself a challenge to tradition and to our assumptions. Just as the mouse-hole was shown in a side-wall and models of tramps were placed against walls in urban environments, each playing with notions of visibility, so too Untitled has often been presented in a manner that shuns center stage; Cattelan disrups concepts of display, appearing on the ground, shattering the revered silence of so many galleries and museums with its sound effects. By railing against these traditional boundaries, by presenting such perversely prosaic material as a lift, by seducing the viewer with its attention to detail, and by incorporating such a sense of the antic, Cattelan both asserts and undermines the redemptive idea that art itself can "elevate" us.

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