Maurizio Cattelan Lets It All Hang Out at the Guggenheim

The apparent suicide of a beloved Disney character is a tough act to follow, but Maurizio Cattelan has made a career out of one-upping himself with works that are by turns unsettling, delightful, awe-inspiring, and downright hilarious. Having set an unconscious Pinocchio afloat in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s fountain back in 2008, Cattelan returns to the scene of the crime for his first retrospective, and he’s brought the unconscious boy puppet—and examples of virtually everything else he’s created since 1989.

On view through January 22, “Maurizio Cattelan: All” embodies the artist’s distinct brand of bravado-cum-brinksmanship by suspending 128 works, from his famous sculptures of Pope John Paul II felled by a meteorite and a contrite Adolf Hitler to art-historical puns (parade-float Picasso, felted-wool paens to Joseph Beuys) and enough taxidermied creatures for a formaldehyde-soaked version of Noah’s Ark, in a dangling mass that occupies the museum’s rotunda. Visitors take in the site-specific installation as they ascend the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed ramps, and the museum has created a fold-out schematic diagram as well as its first app as navigation aids. “This exhibition is a kind of a visual joke, of the naughty artist who has strung up his work without a care,” says Nancy Spector, deputy director and chief curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, who organized the exhibition. “But at the same time, it’s a gallows. It’s a kind of mass hanging, an ending.” And with the opening of the retrospective, Cattelan announced what may be his most daring project yet: his retirement from the art world.

Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation