Cattelan returns to Milan and transforms HangarBicocca into an existential space

Breath Ghosts Blind. Breath, ghosts and blindness. This is the title of the new, chatted and already divisive exhibition of Maurizio Cattelan, which for the first time in eleven years returns to the Milanese museum scenes with a solo show. A long-awaited return full of expectations which, due to its artistic monumentality, finds the right dimension in the immense spaces of the Pirelli HangarBicocca, the main pillar among the places of contemporary art in the city.

Officially open to the public from today and accessible free of charge until February 20, 2022, the exhibition curated by Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí bears the name of only three works that compose it and that articulate the narration in three macro chapters: creation, life and death. The story that Cattelan chooses to tell is in fact the most ancient that man has ever heard, the course of existence from the turning on to the turning off of life. Along the way there are questions, perhaps deliberately rhetorical, about the meaning of existence and the inevitability of death.

“These themes are intertwined with the ambition of each artist to become immortal through their work”, is Cattelan’s black-on-white comment. “Every artist has to deal with both sides of the coin: a sense of omnipotence and failure. It is an ups and downs of intoxicating altitudes and steep descents. As painful as it may be, the second part is also the most important “.

The Pirelli HangarBicocca thus assumes the appearance of one secular cathedral made of concrete and metal trusses, where the three spaces of the exhibition path, called Piazza, Navate and Cubo, are respectively converted into transept, nave and apse, in a cyclic and solemn path masterfully illuminated by Pasquale Mari.

IS Breath the first work encountered on the street. Carrara white marble sculpture depicting a man and a dog in a fetal position, lying facing each other. In the monumental space of the Piazza, the two figures carve out a tiny hollow made of light at our feet, to silently share the same vital function, as well as a generative moment of existence: the breath.

After them, around the corner (or rather on the beams), the ghosts await. Installed along all the naves, Ghosts it is perhaps the work that most angered the criticism of the inauguration. The taxidermies of the pigeons that compose it, in fact, caused a sensation and admiration in 1997 on the occasion of the 47th Venice Biennale, when they were presented for the first time with the title Tourists, as well as in 2011 during the 54th Biennale, in which they took the name of Others. In July 2021, however, after more than a year and a half of artistic immobility and cultural originated from the pandemic, not everyone seems to welcome the revival of a 24-year-old installation in such a long-awaited exhibition. So, nose up, some voices complained of artistic stagnation with disappointment, while others kept silent, perhaps dumbfounded by the familiar sense of estrangement and restlessness that those taxidermies can give.

Maurizio Cattelan, Ghosts, 2021. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca

To close the circle is Blind, a memorial in black resin eighteen meters high and intersected at the top with the shape of an airplane. With this last work, Cattelan reflects on death, bringing to our eyes the unmistakable image, an overbearing entry into the collective iconographic repertoire, of the disaster of twin towers. The tower hit by an airplane, already a shared symbol of loss and pain, then also becomes a way to give shape and color to the most ancient human drama, that of acceptance and exorcization of the end.

Maurizio Cattelan, Blind, 2021. Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2021.Maurizio Cattelan, Blind, 2021. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBicocca

Maurizio Cattelan at the Pirelli HangarBicocca. The return to the Milanese museum scenes

“It is a great honor for us to host Maurizio Cattelan”, was the comment of Marco Tronchetti Provera, President of Pirelli HangarBicocca, an exceptional space for the Paduan artist’s return to the Milanese museum scenes. “He is the greatest living Italian artist. His exhibitions, from Italy to Paris, from New York to England, have left an indelible mark. He is an artist who knows how to speak to the heart, to the soul, who makes us experience emotions in a direct way, touching at times “.

Breath Ghosts Blind it’s the first one solo exhibition of Cattelan in Milan after an absence of over ten years. Detachment never really felt by the Milanese because, as we know, different initiatives have been seen in the Lombard capital, and each of them has given so much to talk and write. From the finger in Piazza Affari of 2010 at the store of Sgrappa in May of this year, a very popular pop-up bar on the Navigli.

With the exhibition inside the HangarBicocca, Cattelan returns to make people talk about itself. This time away from the playful tones of the banana taped to the wall of Art Basel in Miami and closer to the solemn tones of the 2006 Berlin Biennale.

“His work transforms a story or a feeling into a visual and spatial experience”, are the words of Vicente Todolí, artistic director of Pirelli HangarBicocca and co-curator of the exhibition together with Roberta Tenconi. “For the exhibition in Pirelli HangarBicocca Cattelan has transformed the entire architecture of the museum into a psychological dimension: in harmony with the sequence and nature of the three exhibition environments, the works are presented as the chapters of a film or the acts of a play theatrical, becoming a unicum “.


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