Maurizio Cattelan: an Italian work (or two) in New York

In the spaces of the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, two works (one in XL size) by the Italian artist prompt reflections on our time. Alternating violence and beauty

Sunday, 2024, installation view, Maurizio Cattelan - Photo © Maris Hutchinson Courtesy Gagosian

The first solo show by Maurizio Cattelan in two decades, and the debut of the artist at Gagosian, one of the world’s most powerful galleries: Sunday, curated by Francesco Bonami, is on view at the gallery’s space in Chelsea, at 522 West 21st Street (until 15 June 2024). Along the lines of America, the famous solid gold toilet installed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York in 2016, the work again addresses the social and cultural contradictions of the USA, examining increasingly urgent issues on the American scene and around the globe, particularly the question of violence.

Economic inequality is a central theme of Sunday, along with the uncontrolled circulation of firearms, a tragic plague narrated with a series of panels – 5 meters high, extending for over 20 meters – made in stainless steel with 24k gold plating, literally punctured by gunshots, leaving holes and craters. The work joins a long history of art and weaponry: from The Execution of Emperor Maximilian by Edouard Manet (1868-69) to Shoot by Chris Burden (1971), all the way to the “shotgun paintings” of William Burroughs. “We are completely immersed in violence, every day, and we are used to it. Repetition has made us accept violence as inevitable,” the artist says.

Sunday, 2024, installation view, Maurizio Cattelan – Photo © Maris Hutchinson Courtesy Gagosian

In front of the wall of golden panels, visitors see a fountain – November (2024) – conceived by Cattelan as a bench on which a human figure lies, urinating on the ground. A “monument to marginality,” a condition we are accustomed to encountering and ignoring, an echo of the famous public sculpture Manneken Pis (1619) depicting a boy urinating in a fountain. A disturbing violation of social mores, but as Bonami asks: “If you’re free to buy an assault rifle in a department store, what’s wrong with pissing in public?”