Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cattelan's Finger


Yet again, Maurizio Cattelan achieved his admitted goal: he is on the covers of magazines.
The finger, called L.O.V.E.*, has been erected in front of the Milan stock exchange for the duration of the Fashion Week happening in the city.
Everyone is happy: Cattelan gets his attention, the public is proud of such a daring representative, the city gets its Fashion Week (kind of) publicized, and the brokers... well, the brokers have a good laugh and continue their business as usual.
That is not to say the work is not good. It is poignant. The finger that is sticking is the only one remaining on the hand. The others seem to have been severed. So is this hand telling the bankers to go fuck themselves, or is that the only thing it can say? Or maybe it's that when you have next to nothing, the middle finger is the one to resist longest.
Oh, but of course, it's made of marble and put on a pedestal.

But that, really, is not the work at work here. The work is to have been able to put it in front of the Stock Exchange. To have shown them the finger and have them accept it. This is what makes a real contemporary trickster - not the sculpture, but the context.
"We want to be confirmed as the capital of contemporary art", the city's administrators officially stated, "and we have to not only mediate but also accept what we do not like".
Which is a hilarious comment, and only confirms Cattelan's intelligence. One wonders how he did it. Maybe what he said was, let's cut the crap, it is a criticism, but it will attract more tourists than you can ever imagine, and will not hurt you in any way whatsoever, because no one is going to take their money out of the stocks after seeing my work. On the contrary, the tourists will leave their money in Milan.
But the controversy remains. “It is unacceptable that the City sticks its finger up to the Stock Exchange" – said the councillor for Town Planning Carlo Masseroli in a fervent discussion.
Masseroli says: "the administration cannot be culturally subordinate to a self-styled artist like Cattelan who wants to use Milan to earn money”.
Oh, that's right, Cattelan made money off this! I wonder who payed him.
So the question is, who is Cattelan showing the finger to?
I'm not sure, but the pictures suggest that the finger is in front of the stock exchange. And is not pointing towards it, but from it.

Which could end this text. But will not. Because even if Cattelan laughs in our face, even if he plays a trick on all of us, he still plays out the crucial role of catalyzer - he materializes the tensions that are already there. He makes us go "Hey! Wait a minute!" He sticks the finger where it hurts.

*The title was originally supposed to be "Omnia munda mundis" ("To the pure ones everything is pure").


14 comments:

Kristin Hjellegjerde said...

Absolutely captivating! An intriguing Artist by the way.

Jan said...

Here come all the tourist photo ops...

Alex Yudzon said...

could also be the financial industry giving the finger to the public, as a gesture of defiance like "don't blame us for your greed!" perhaps the ambiguity of who the finger is intended for is part of the work, there is after all a lot of "finger pointing" going on right now...

ArtMan said...

The only thing this hand (finger) is telling is:"I desperately need attention!"

Skew said...

I agree with vvoi here. The content of the sculpture is inextricable from the space, the context. The most important part, in my opinion, is the guidance this sculpture provides for consideration. All the speculation about what it means and why it's there seems to be more the purpose than dictating that free market trade is negative or some such. Quite the opposite; instead of telling you what to think, it is opening up a specific space in which to think. It acts as a guide more than a dictator. Like vvoi asked, what are the severed fingers about? Is this the only thing the hand can say with only the one finger left? And what is it that did the severing? Could it be a (classically ironic) contemporary statement challenging the restrictions of genuine freedom by free markets and "crapitalism" themselves, while itself being touted as successful art right outside the physical home of these very same ideals? Or, among other possibilities, is Cattelan really just trying to get away with whatever he can while getting paid for it? The point is that the piece, specifically with its particular context, is there for you to make the considerations, to begin a dialogue with its audience.

Even if it were true that Cattelan is playing a trick on us, and even more so on those who accepted the piece for placement at the stock exchange during a high profile period, does that negate it as art? Does that make it "merely" a cry for attention? I think not. On the other hand, I think this particular piece could be better suited to no other particular place and time for the reasons stated above. It is this very element itself that makes the sculpture successful.

Carla F said...

Awesome, I love this.

JRup said...

This seems so appropriate for Wall Street. I can't believe this 'free expression' gets blurred out, while money gets equated to unlimited free speech. Even the family doctor hates it and has embraced a 'do-it-yourself' test for colon cancer. Does this means that Italy is now the Home of the Free?

Alex Preece said...

I love all Cattelan's work, and the middle finger is just great, provocative and smart at the same time. I just saw the preview of his last piece, the cat in the cage, which I found brilliant: http://www.ravishingbeasts.com/ravishingbeasts/2010/11/23/maurizio-cattelans-cat-cage.html

Shannon said...

This is good stuff. i wonder if all governments are that receptive to this. The size of this just makes it even more captivating. And i guess that's the whole point - size

asian art

Anonymous said...

Wow, cool blog, love the finger ;) Quirky. I love reading/seeing others insights.

http://www.threadthelove.net.au/

Abstract Erosion said...

I hadn't heard of this until now, what a great site specific piece! :)

Ace said...

Nutty. Mad props to Milan for putting this up. It says a lot about the people of Milan. The have an open mind. If I saw the same piece in a gallery it of course wouldn't have the same power. In America they probably would put this in front on ANY institution. I love the joke. And the fact that he got paid for it.

Anonymous said...

Yes ... but the hand is ... pointing the wrong way ...

-jiaix

Ben said...

It looks good! Too bad it wasn't bigger

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