When asked to curate last year's Caribbean Biennial together with Jens Hoffmann, Maurizio Cattelan limited his efforts to placing full-page advertisements in art magazines, distributing press releases, organising institutional sponsorship, and inviting ten of the most sought-after artist stars from around the world, including Olafur Eliasson, Mariko Mori and Chris Ofili. When the day of the opening arrived, however, there was no exhibition. Instead, Cattelan had spent the entire budget on a luxury vacation for himself and his fellow artists. The few visitors flying in for the event were left wandering about on their own.
Cattelan is regarded as one of the art world's newest enfant terribles - a title well deserved. For an exhibition in Amsterdam, for example, he organised an actual break-in of a private gallery, and exhibited the products of his clandestine theft. For the Venice Biennale in 1993, he rented his space out to an advertising agency. In 1997, he then released a flock of pigeons into his exhibition space, and two years later buried a holy Indian fakir for several hours at a time with only his hands showing above ground. He even went as far as duct-taping his Italian gallerist to the wall of the gallery, and made his Parisian dealer jump around in a pink penis costume.
The theme of the homeless person has fascinated artists throughout art history - from Leonardo da Vinci's studies of beggars and Edouard Manet's portraits of drunkards to Gilbert and George's photographs of society's outcasts. In the early 1990s, Andres Serrano approached street people in New York City and asked them to pose for him in a makeshift studio in the subway for a standard model's fee. Cattelan takes this one step further. By actually following vagrants through the streets of Luxembourg, he attempts to understand their every movement and need in the urban setting. A drunken homeless person asleep on the street provides the source for 'Untitled (Gérard)' from 1999. In the best Duane Hanson style, the figure is posed squatting on the floor, with his head bent down and wrapped in a dirty blanket. The figure appears faceless, and thus anonymous. This mucky figure seems both lifelike and mysterious, making the viewer uncertain as to whether to stare or look away. Furthermore, Cattelan's wacky humour, and the fact that he often uses himself as the centre of his oeuvre, makes us wonder if we are actually looking at a representation of a real homeless person or the artist himself.