Saturday, 25 September 2010
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").