The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has spent much of his career trying to create as little as possible–for his first show in 1989, he simply closed the gallery and hung up a sign that read “Be back soon.” And his retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, entitled “All” and on view until January 22, emphasizes this point extremely well: The artist has both claimed and disavowed his career by suspending all his work from the museum’s iconic rotunda with ropes, as if hung on a gallows. And how the art is hung is much more interesting than the art itself.
In the video above, the Guggenheim created a time-lapse of the installation process, in which all 128 pieces–including a stuffed ostrich, an elephant covered in a white sheet, a 20-foot-long Carrara marble base, a tree planted in soil, a foosball table long enough for 11 players on each side, and a 7-foot-long shopping cart–were hung by ropes from an aluminum truss connected to the museum’s oculus. Not shown in the video, at the very top of the ceiling, are chains attached to the ceiling’s arches that provide the support for the rotunda. The truss also contains slanted metal poles from which the sculptures in the lower half of the installation dangle.
Although it looks like a gimmick, the experience of walking up the rotunda actually offers one of the best vistas to see each piece individually while also seeing it in context. And ironically, it also allows for a level of concentration throughout the exhibition that is rarely found in large museum retrospectives. You could go so far as to say that the installation saves the art from itself: Even if you don’t like the work, there’s a perverse attraction found in seeing it hung by its neck.
[Photos: Maurizio Cattelan: All, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum//David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation]