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Maurizio Cattelan (B. 1960)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN LADY
Maurizio Cattelan (B. 1960)

Untitled

Details
Maurizio Cattelan (B. 1960)
Untitled
dog skeleton and Liberation newspaper
15¾ x 31½ x 19¾in. (40 x 80 x 50cm.)
Executed in 1997, this work is one of three unique versions each with different newspaper.
Provenance
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
Literature
N. Bourriaud, 'A Grammar of Visual Delinquency', in Parkett, no. 59, 2000 (illustrated in colour, p. 41).
Apocalypse: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art, exh. cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2000 (illustrated in colour, p. 91).
F. Bonami, N. Spector and B. Vanderlinden (eds.), Maurizio Cattelan, London 2000 (illustrated in colour with incorrect title, p. 84).
Best in Show. The Dog in Art from Renaissance to Today, exh. cat., Greenwich, Bruce Museum, 2006 (another example illustrated in colour, p. 97).
M. Cattelan, DIE/DIE MORE/DIE BETTER/DIE AGAIN, Paris 2008 (illustrated in colour, p. 28).
M. Cattelan, Maurizio Has Left the Building, New York 2011 (installation view illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Exhibited
Zurich, Migros Museum, Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Alicia Framis, Steve McQueen, aernout mik/marjoleine boonstra: ironisch/ironic, 1998 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Turin, Palazzo Torino Espoizioni, Nuove complicità. Acquisizioni recenti di collezioni torinesi, 2001 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Maurizio Cattelan: All, 2012, p. 248, no. 60 (illustrated in colour, p. 214).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Post Lot Text
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

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Lot Essay

‘The vignette employs a well-worn iconography of cuteness – the newspaper alone suggests a loyal animal eager to please its master. Intertwined with evidence of death, the dog has thus been stripped of any hint of its own personality and is frozen in a posture of service, rendering the creature incapable of anything but eternal loyalty’ —W. S. SMITH


Untitled exemplifies the dark wit and material ingenuity that propelled Maurizio Cattelan to international fame upon his first participation in the Venice Biennale in 1997, the same year this work was executed. The work consists of a dog skeleton posed with a newspaper held in its jaws: what at first glance looks like a museum specimen is in fact an uncanny parody of cartoon canine behaviour. As William S. Smith writes, ‘The vignette employs a well-worn iconography of cuteness – the newspaper alone suggests a loyal animal eager to please its master. Intertwined with evidence of death, the dog has thus been stripped of any hint of its own personality and is frozen in a posture of service, rendering the creature incapable of anything but eternal loyalty’ (W. S. Smith, ‘Catalogue,’ in Maurizio Cattelan: All, exh. cat. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 2011, p. 215). Flesh long fallen from its bones, the eager skeletal dog reduces our anthropomorphic gaze to its starkest form. As with much of Cattelan’s work, Untitled is not just a sardonic joke, but employs animal anatomy in a smart interrogation of how we attach meaning to art. Nancy Spector argues that in his early work ‘Cattelan created what can be characterized as an aesthetic of failure – a look, a tone, an attitude that serves to manage expectations, to make excuses before the fact’ (N. Spector, Maurizio Cattelan: All, exh. cat. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 2011, p. 28). Indeed, the immobile hound of Untitled, manifestly unable to deliver the newspaper, effectively fails its promised purpose. Created at a time when he was entering the storied international art institutions to which he still refuses to conform, the work displays Cattelan’s prankster sensibility in something of a self-portrait: his grinning canine portrays obedience as death.

Renowned for his role as court jester of the art world, in 1997 Cattelan’s trademark buffoonery earned him a place in the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where he exhibited Turisti (1997), a flock of taxidermied pigeons perched in the rafters that both challenged and paid tribute to the legacy of Arte Povera. As with these stuffed pigeons, which were reprised at the 2011 Biennale and still strike fear into the hearts of expensively-dressed viewers, Untitled creates a compelling dissonance between humour and its stark focus on mortality. ‘Animals are not so funny,’ Cattelan has said; ‘I think they have a dark, morbid side’ (M. Cattelan, quoted in F. Bonami, N. Spector, B. Vanderlinden (eds.), Maurizio Cattelan, London 2000, p. 30). Throughout his widely varied sculptural practice, Cattelan has often used taxidermy to explore human emotion. His contribution to the 1997 group show Delta at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, was Stone Dead (1997) – a pair of Labradors, seemingly asleep, whose cosy domesticity is harshly disrupted by the realisation that they are in fact stuffed. In Bidibidobidiboo (1996), a suicidal squirrel slumps over a table in a miniature kitchen modelled on that of Cattelan’s childhood home; a gun is dropped to the floor, and dirty dishes languish in the background. The pathos of this scene is offset by the contextual absurdity of the squirrel, turning a Disneyfied view of animal life into kitchen-sink melodrama. Cattelan’s animals have clear parallels with the work of Damien Hirst, whose iconic formaldehyde-preserved shark The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) created a sublime vision of life, death and natural grandeur. Where Hirst’s animals are fearsomely morbid, however, Cattelan smuggles serious meditations in under the guise of anarchic humour. Ultimately, his works are less about animals than they are about the absurdities and contradictions of human nature. Perhaps most infamously, his sculpture La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999) depicts Pope John Paul II having been struck by a meteorite, clashing Biblical drama with science-fiction spectacle: in Cattelan’s theatre of the absurd we are all vulnerable, from God’s representative on earth to man’s best friend. Untitled stands as an immortally irreverent avatar of the artist. Forever challenging the systems in which he takes part, Cattelan follows no master but himself.

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