Sometimes what is most frightening is not what’s bloody or supernatural or traditionally spooky, but instead what’s banal and slightly off-kilter. Take Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s work, which has been collected for his first major exhibition in five years at Monnaie de Paris.
Integrating many of his iconic sculptures throughout the opulent 18th century salons of the former Paris Mint, the exhibition, incongruously titled “Not Afraid of Love,” creates a spatial timeline of sorts, allowing pieces to inhabit a space while also creating a dialogue with others in a discomfiting, funhouse environment.
A stuffed horse, stuck high on the walls of an intricately-plastered all-white room, appears to have crashed head-first into a blank void, while a row of cadavers covered in a white cloth but are actually made entirely of marble can be glimpsed in the next room.
Elsewhere, suspended from a vaulted ceiling is another stuffed horse, while pigeons perched on ledges survey the action below. What appears to be a homeless man shrouded in a blanket crouches in a corner, trying to make himself small on bright red carpeting.
Indeed, the human male form figures throughout the exhibition, whether reincarnated as a penitent Hitler kneeling before a closed door, or the pope in full garb, prone on the same red carpeting felled by a meteor. A sculpture of the artist himself peeks his head out from below a parquet floor, while another version of himself joins the pigeons, legs dangling.
Though at first glance the sculptures may seem merely funny or satirical, Cattelan tells Designboom that they are actually quite serious: “I have been labeled as funny since my early days, but I am much more serious than people think, and am less ironic than my reputation would have you believe. What might have looked like a joke in the past seems more serious today.”
In fact, the pieces are unsettling, and, dare we say, subtly scary. The exhibit runs through January. Cattelan’s last show was a retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York in 2011.