Lot 44
  • 44

Maurizio Cattelan

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Maurizio Cattelan
  • Untitled
  • polyurethane rubber and sterling steel
  • 49 by 39 by 18cm.; 19 1/4 by 15 by 7 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 2009, this work is number 3 from an edition of 10, plus 2 artist’s proofs.


Galerie Perrotin, Paris

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner 


Exhibition Catalogue, Houston, The Menil Collection, Maurizio Cattelan: Is There Life Before Death?, 2010, pp. 10-11, illustration of another example

Exhibition Catalogue, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Maurizio Cattelan: All, 2011-12, p. 240, no. 105, illustration of another example in colour 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals short and unobtrusive rub marks in a few places to the back of the boot and above the figure's forehead.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Maurizio Cattelan's emblematic Untitled invokes a powerful coalescence of two major tenets from the artist's provocative praxis: at once Cattelan's principle modality of surreal self-portraiture is channelled through an iconographic allusion to institutionally abused hierarchies of power. Concealed within a militaristic boot, the three-dimensional visage of Cattelan's likeness emerges smothered and fetishistically asphyxiated by the hermetic seal of black rubber. Potently evoking Renato Bertelli's famous Profilo Continuo del Duce (Continuous profile of Mussolini) of 1933, Cattelan absurdly transforms Bertelli's ultra-modern reinvention of the classical portrait bust. Gleaming in the black insignia of Fascism, Bertelli's lathed depiction of Mussolini's distinctive profile is manifest from all angles; an omniscient and disconcerting futurist icon tainted by the legacy of authoritarianism. Made ridiculous in the present work via the risibly looming rubber plumage, Cattelan's Untitled directly plays on the iconic boot-like shape of Italy's geographic peninsula to incite a dialogue with his own Italian identity in tandem with the collective national inheritance of Italy's Fascist past.

With disturbing veracity and uncanny sculptural figuration, Cattelan has forged a career scrutinising the limits and abuses of power. The pictorial vernacular and semiotic idioms of authority figures and institutional power structures are frequently called upon in rebellion and theatrical mocking. Untitled is related to the incendiary lineage of sculptures including Cattelan's most famous works; the stricken Pope John Paul II of La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999); the diminutive and submissive reimagining of Adolf Hitler, Him (2001); as well as the notorious address of Cattelan's disembodied Fascist salute, Ave Maria (2007). Daringly irreverent, politically and religiously inflammatory, Cattelan engenders an iconoclastic challenge to icons of power via a subversion of the figurative sculptural tradition. Evidencing the same absurdist sensibility inherent to the sacrilegiously felled pontiff in La Nona Ora, Cattelan's evocation of Mussolini in Untitled, thematises the vanquishing and fallibility of extreme power; as explained by the artist himself: "power, whatever power, has an expiration date, just like milk" (Maurizio Cattelan quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Maurizio Cattelan: All, 2011-12, p. 95). Surreally entombed within the militaristic livery of Mussolini's infamous paramilitary 'Blackshirts', Cattelan's upended and recapitulated portrait bust destabilises the fraught associations of Bertelli's Futurist icon with characteristic irony and humour.

This is not the first time il Duce has been evoked in Cattelan's work. Sinisterly recalling the infamous documentary photograph of Mussolini's upsidedown body hanging next to other executed fascists at the end of World War II, Cattelan's 2002 sculpture Frank and Jamie, exhibited shortly after the 9/11 attacks, literally turns authority on its head via the upside-down display of two New York City policemen. Politically subversive, Cattelan undermines dominant power structures to engender "a new form of statuary, functioning as modern-day icons that are ultimately iconoclastic, raging against authority and lamenting the lost promises of political idealism" (Ibid., p. 104).

Nonetheless intelligible through the thick rubber boot, this sculpture bears the artist's distinctive physiognomy and thus belongs, as expounded by Cattelan himself, within the canon of self-portraiture that permeates his oeuvre (Ibid., p. 240). The choice of self as subject began in 1997 with Charlie Don't Surf, an important development which bestowed tangible memories and feelings of isolation and anxiety in an uncanny and disquietingly accurate development of the age old tradition of self-portraiture. Cattelan's alter-egos exhibit a tension between self-effacement and self-promotion, and consistently attempt to articulate his guarded relationship with the art world. Famously elusive, the artist retains a shy and codified public persona, frequently relinquishing traditional art establishment responsibilities by sending others in his place to social engagements. In the present work, Cattelan typically effaces his own identity. Masked in the politically provocative yet ludicrous disguise of a boot heaved over his head, this work echoes Not Afraid of Love (2000) in which a baby elephant appears disguised beneath Ku Klux Klan robes. Here, Cattelan carefully crafts an image that fulfils his reputation as a provocateur and yet remains essentially unknowable. In a transformation of Van Gogh's self-portrait as his own worn and threadbare boots, Cattelan vicariously and ambivalently posits and veils his own identity in the guise of a ridiculous yet authoritarian emblem. Like a sadomasochistic mask, Untitled wields an allusion to fetishistic black rubber mitigated by the signifiers of political malice, psychological anxiety, and eroticised claustrophobia of an imagined airless entrapment. With the present work Cattelan masterfully summons, destabilises and synthesises a host of loaded and provocative associations with characteristic disdain and humorous derision.