Call to mind the temperamental, brooding artist whose work, worshipped by the art cognoscenti, fails to resonate with your regular exhibition-goer. Now hold that thought, because Maurizio Cattelan is the antithesis of the caricature. His work and brand of satire precedes his name; the artist’s four-metre tall statue of a middle finger in Milan’s Piazza Affari has probably popped up on your Instagram explore page, precisely because his off-the-wall humour is something that most can get. And at Cattelan’s exhibition in Shanghai backed by Gucci — titled The Artist Is Present, in which he’s both curator and creator — there is plenty to get.
It’s rooted in the idea that copying is at once sacrilegious, but too the highest compliment; that the bootleg possesses its own value, despite being imitation; and that in today’s world, what isn’t a copy of something else? At the Yuz Museum in Shanghai — the metropolis of a country known for top-tier imitation — it comes to life in Cattelan’s curation of artworks by over 30 artists, including his very own copy of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.
But it’s not just Gucci’s Alessandro Michele — earlier this year, he anointed fashion appropriator Dapper Dan (prosecuted in the ’90s for his unlicensed “copies” of luxury brand logos) with his very own Gucci-backed atelier — who perceives the value in imitation. In Cattelan’s universe spotlighting the notion with delightful wit, it’s plain for all to see.
Michele (left) and Cattelan (right). The latter sports a wig and baseball cap, posing as the designer.
See what we mean?
Visit The Artist Is Present at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai from now till December 16.