Maurizio Cattelan: Yes, and in exchange…
Ivo Bonacorsi: He gave out cheques (or certificates if you prefer) for Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility… I admit that when you retired I thought, at least initially, that it was a dissociative fugue.
Maurizio Cattelan: I wasn’t away long though.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Had the art system become over-complicated? Or was it, maybe, a restricted field of action?
Maurizio Cattelan: Absolutely not! You know well that I use precisely this sort of parameter in relation to my work.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Nonetheless they were starting to publish a whole host of stupid stories on the fact that your emblematics were becoming multiples. I think I saw a photo of La Nona Ora in miniature somewhere or other and basically thought that, since Rodin had done it too, why not focus on the fact that you were at the Guggenheim with phantasmagorical staff and you had everyone looking skywards.
Maurizio Cattelan: Did you like ALL?
Ivo Bonacorsi: I must admit I really did and am still wondering how you managed to convince Nancy Spector and your collectors to create that situation of suspense when the Guggenheim grumbled about artists of the calibre of Beuys.
Maurizio Cattelan: Believe me, the transport and insurance were harder.
Ivo Bonacorsi: It is certain now that you turned more than one generation of artists green with envy with that achievement and exhibition. The end seemed to be in the air since you imagined things like the monumental middle finger in front of the Milan stock exchange and, indeed, that greasy pole in the most iconic American museum spiral and the poor Pinocchio face down in the pool. You might get this feeling at the Monnaie, too. I don’t think you have put in anything new or am I mistaken?
Maurizio Cattelan: Of course, maybe I have entered a post-object dimension. The exhibition you see is fairly surprising and I don’t think there is a Lassie Come Home mood.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Chiara Parisi is an expert director and curator. She will have explained that the French public is not easy. There is some chauvinism and that doesn’t help in times of rampant populism. They also like films in the original language.
Maurizio Cattelan: But then they add subtitles, which is what we did, including for the exhibition signage. Packed with different people’s viewpoints, for and against my work. So, my return rings roughly as: meme pas peur… de l’amour…
Ivo Bonacorsi: Thank heavens for the guilt complex with English, your original really does sound far more Nouvelle Vague.
Maurizio Cattelan: Do you think a Philippe Garrel-style title such as J’entend plus la guitare or Le vent de la nuit would have been more fitting?
Ivo Bonacorsi: Well, to avoid running any risks you have re-installed Charlie don’t surf…
Maurizio Cattelan: Nailing them all to the desk, since I don’t think there’s any joking here with philosophers, Vietnam and adolescence.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Yes, and I see there’s also Crucified Woman and 900, as if you’d become a realist but a bit like Courbet was.
Maurizio Cattelan: I’ve never had a problem with the classics and you know that I skipped he history of art. Here we have the same drummer boy that I installed on the cornice of the Louvre, with the people queuing up actually more concerned that the boy might fall than interested in the artworks they would see once inside the museum.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Unless I’m mistaken, the phrase “not afraid of love” you have just stamped in red ink on my arm was also the title of the elephant covered with a white sheet. Was it a sort of burqa only showing the eyes and trunk or a KKK hood? Here there’s no…
Maurizio Cattelan: To be honest, it was a slightly grim KKK hood and it’s not just here in Paris that people are laughing less… what do you think?
Ivo Bonacorsi: I continue to wonder why in Italy you are included in the tradition of the jester, made of greats such as Benigni and Dario Fo, while abroad you are considered an existentialist.
Maurizio Cattelan: Maybe Italian art doesn’t have any serious problems.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Or you have liberated Italy of its serious problems, at least at the auctions.
Maurizio Cattelan: But those it does have seem increasingly to be more lavatorial than eschatological.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Are you referring to your return to the Guggenheim? By the way, did you install America, your replica of the original Guggenheim toilet in 18 carat gold, to connect Piero Manzoni to Marcel Duchamp? Or to remind the world that Trump is really not “president material”? How will you manage when you live in New York!
Maurizio Cattelan: I had thought of adding Bill Clinton with his back turned and trousers down to help my Republican collectors but it wouldn’t have worked. But then, you see, even with Kennedy, I don’t really focus on politics in the strict sense.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Or Warhol… but, at a certain point, your Belpaese – that portrait-rug beneath which to sweep the ashes of our scandals – earned you a degree honoris causa and in the company of Tina Anselmi, for years the chair of the AntiMafia Commission.
Maurizio Cattelan: See, in Italy we only trust Eugenio Scalfari and Marco Belpoliti, even for contemporary art.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Because of an article of 2011 published in Doppiozero, The End. Berlusconi & Cattelan.
Maurizio Cattelan: They attributed a strong sociological role me and my work, almost as if I were a Damien Hirst, obsessed with value, or a Banksy fixated with street art and theme parks. Now, may I lay claim to the tradition of Boetti or De Dominicis?
Ivo Bonacorsi: You keep bolting and, indeed, even those who detest your work never manage to pull off, I don’t know, a reproduction of the Duomo in Milan or one with the middle finger in marble you installed in front of the stock exchange.
Maurizio Cattelan: Hopefully not in the face, as with our former Premier, partly because, just like him, I haven’t really gone away. There’s always a risk of getting a taste for power and it’s not so simple. Some run off with the takings, I do it with a tombstone under my arm.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Speaking of the aberrations of power, Him has also popped up here at the Monnaie, your controversial work of a kneeling Hitler. First in Warsaw and then in front of the Fontana’s La Fine di Dio – The End of God at the Gagosian. Here, it is a melancholy Harendt-type figure. In such an almost intimistic context, it is another monument to the infinite and potential purposes of art.
Maurizio Cattelan: Today, these extensions and synergies between large exhibitions and events are very fashionable.
Ivo Bonacorsi: Coming here, I was thinking that by reproposing familiar works you are actually playing a conciliatory role with regard to many infinite stories in the art world.
Maurizio Cattelan: Do you mean I can keep sending my Picasso to shake hands with visitors queuing up for major exhibitions around the world?
Ivo Bonacorsi: Maybe yes, since you are very good with the entrepreneurial libido. Let’s hope you can make us forget that 2016 has been a dreadful year.
Maurizio Cattelan: Oh no, don’t describe it as “the top of the class is back”.
Ivo Bonacorsi: I hope so and I also hope it’s not just to please Emmanuel Perrotin or the market.
Maurizio Cattelan: Are you saying I should have brought more works? Not just drummer boys, tramps, crucified girls and so on. The long list includes horses, the squirrel that has committed suicide and a couple of donkeys.
Ivo Bonacorsi: By the way, did you see there was a no.10 Roma jersey with Boetti on it at Frieze the other day. For an instant, I thought it was yours.
Maurizio Cattelan: As you know, my football teams have always been full of migrants and very long benches but these days, with all the walls and borders, they are not easy situations to handle.
Ivo Bonacorsi: But our beloved Alighiero (Boetti ed. note) grew tired of the success of Arte Povera and set off to conquer Afghanistan with just an exercise book.
Maurizio Cattelan: He didn’t invent football teams like Rauss to sell, like some great Italian clubs, to a Chinese magnate. And do you say I should just have enjoyed my retirement?
Ivo Bonacorsi: No. It is like in F for fake where we don’t know whether the art we are producing involves coining fake money or starting out on a brand-new work.
until 8 January 2017
Not Afraid of Love
Monnaie de Paris
11 Quai de Conti, Parigi