Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Maurizio Cattelan
B. 1960
acrylic on canvas
70.2 by 70.2 cm. 27 5/8 by 27 5/8 in.
Executed in 1997.
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Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Milan
Private Collection, Milan
Christie's, London, 24 October 2004, Lot 72
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Francesco Bonami, Nancy Spector and Barbara Vanderlinden, Eds., Maurizio Cattelan, Hong Kong 2000, p. 41, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Maurizio Cattelan has been the art world’s premier enfant terrible from the earliest days of his practice, and Untitled (Zorro) from 1997 demonstrates – with a typified formal modesty – the superb, cognisant wit of the Italian artist. Born in Padua in 1960, Cattelan would come of age in his native Italy dogged by social and political upheaval. The Zorro motif thus appears in Cattelan’s practice as a complex symbol that overlays the pop culture of Hollywood and the anarchism that marked Cattelan’s youth, with a wry parody of the vaunted monochromes of Lucio Fontana.

Executed in a warm gold, Untitled (Zorro) is a unique painting in a series of monochrome Zorro works that Cattelan initiated in 1993. Taking its formal cues from the Concetti Spaziali (1949-1960) of Fontana, the present work appropriates the iconic “slashing” method by which the artist is known, refashioning the archetypal modernist incisions as the calling card of the vigilante hero Zorro. Alluding to the simplicity of Fontana’s gesture and his seniority as the forefather of Italian Modernism, Cattelan both lampoons and lionises Fontana, deriding his method whilst hijacking his identity as a masked hero of contemporary art. Cattelan’s artistic style is indivisible from his comedic style: reactive, versatile, unbridled, and acutely aware, his matter-of-fact delivery always belies the complex associations, biographic slant and art-historical narratives that form the inner workings of his practice.

Cattelan’s cultivated persona is itself integral to his art practice. “We live in the empire of marketing, spectacle and seduction,” the artist says, “so one of the roles of artists and curators is to deconstruct those strategies, to resist their logic, to use them, and/or find new means of activism against them” (Maurizio Cattelan cited in: ‘I Want to Be Famous – Strategies for Successful Living; Interview with Barbara Casavecchia’, in: Francesco Bonami, Nancy Spector and Barbara Vanderlinden, Eds., Maurizio Cattelan, London 2000, p. 136). Exemplified by Cattelan’s intervention at the Museum of Modern Art in 1998 – where a hired actor masqueraded as Pablo Picasso in an oversize, moulded caricature head – the institutions and idols of contemporary art are only challenged and advanced through their reclamation, repurposing and critique; a process that Cattelan implements through a tragi-comic, self-sacrificial humour.

Untitled (Zorro) seamlessly blends the aesthetics of Modernism with the brilliant, comedic nuance that Cattelan has become famous for. Not only does the pierced canvas wonderfully epitomise Cattelan’s own reputation as a rebellious anti-authoritarian, but it also extends its subtle critique to the idea of the artist-as-hero and the glorification of the artist-signature. In an oeuvre that has included coordinating a fictitious biennial, installing a gold toilet at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and exhibiting his gallerist, Massimo De Carlo, attached to the wall with adhesive tape, the present work is emblematic of Cattelan’s distinguished career as one of the most innovative and lauded contemporary artists.

Contemporary Art Day Auction