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Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back (2016)

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An art world upstart, provocative and elusive artist Maurizio Cattelan made his career on playful and subversive works that send up the artistic establishment, until a retrospective at the ... See full summary »

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An art world upstart, provocative and elusive artist Maurizio Cattelan made his career on playful and subversive works that send up the artistic establishment, until a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2011 finally solidified his place in the contemporary art canon. Axelrod's equally playful profile leaves no stone unturned in trying to figure out: who is Maurizio Cattelan?

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April 2016 (USA)  »

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the art of succeeding
25 February 2018 | by See all my reviews

Art defies logic. Market forces defy logic. The combination of art and market which is the market of art cannot but defy logic. This may be one of the reasons controversial works of art like the ones created by contemporary artists like Damian Hirst, Jeff Koons or Maurizio Cattelan reach prices that could cover the cultural budget of half of the countries in the United Nations, while their quality or good taste is very much open for discussion for many other artists and experts, and refuse to resonate with scores of amateurs of art, more or less connoisseurs. This film is about Maurizio Cattelan, one of the greatest provocateurs in the history of art. I personally like many of the things that he made, but there are quite a bunch of friends whose opinions I respect and who consider him an impostor, and I can understand why other people may be offended by images of the pope struck by a meteorite, or of Hitler kneeling in penitence. What cannot be denied is that Cattelan is a master of image building, and even if conceptual art is not my cup of tea, I cannot deny success, measured in fame and dollars his works earn in public art sales.

One needs to be cautious with a documentary like "Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back" directed by Maura Axelrod. Apparently, it's a bio-artistic documentary, the kind of these projected in museums as a supporting material for a major retrospective of an artist. It describes the biography of the artist, using a combination of testimonies and cartoons in the classical Disney style. It features the sister of the artist, his ex and current girlfriends, art collectors and critics who (at least some of them) happen to be his friends, gallery owners and experts who work for the Cattelan Archives. It talks about the raise of a young artist of humble origins, the challenges in building his career and public image, his works, their price in the market, whether their value comes close or has any relationship with the price. The artist himself talks - sometimes enigmatically - about his art. Controversies that were each milestones in his career are mentioned, although none of his sharp critics, not to speak about detractors, is offered screen time. The film ends with the announcement of his 'end of career' which happened in 2011.

But then, let us pay more attention. Some of his friends and art experts seem to read texts prepared in advance and to play their own role. Cattelan himself in the film is ... not Maurizio Cattelan, but his friend Massimiliano Gioni playing (very credibly) the artist's role. His 'end of career' in 2011 after the retrospective at Guggenheim does not seem to be final. As it is being said in the film, the goal of Cattelan's work is not making art, but succeeding in art. So, this film, "Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back" may be another of his conceptual works of art, another stair in the pyramid he is building with his own life and art career. Art or "art". Whatever. Or maybe just a sharp critic of the whole art system. As with many of works created by Maurizio Cattelan, you are never sure when watching this film about what you are exactly seeing.


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