Vatican Taps Maurizio Cattelan for its Venice Pavilion


The Vatican has tapped Italian provocateur Maurizio Cattelan for its Venice Pavilion.

The Vatican revealed on March 11 that Cattelan will create an outdoor installation that incorporates works by eight artists; it will be located at the Giudecca Women’s Prison. Inmates at the prison will help create several of the artworks.

Cattelan is best known for sculptures and installations that invite controversy, making him a somewhat surprising representation for the seat of the Catholic Church. His headline-grabbing works include a kneeling Hitler and the sculpture The Ninth Hour (La Nona Ora), a life-size wax sculpture of Pope John Paul II on his side, seconds after being struck by a meteorite. The Ninth Hour was exhibited at multiple institutions, including the 2001 Venice Biennale

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VENICE, ITALY - APRIL 20: Tourists and locals enter the Biennale's Central Pavilion during the 59th International Art Exhibition (Biennale Arte) on April 20, 2022 in Venice, Italy. The 59th International Art Exhibition in Venice will open to the public from April 23th to November 27th. (Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Getty Images)

His art became a viral sensation in 2019, when, at Art Basel Miami Beach, Perrotin gallery premiered Comedian, a banana duct-taped to a wall. It sold for $120,000, and was ultimately eaten by artist David Datuna. The second iteration of Comedian, on display at Seoul’s Leeum Museum of Art in 2023, was similarly ingested, this time by a South Korean student.

Cattelan’s Venice commission will consist of a 12-minute video installation directed by actor Zoe Saldaña and her husband, Italian director and producer Marco Perego. Inmates will play characters in the film, and some have also contributed photographs of themselves as children for a piece by the French artist Claire Tabouret. The Lebanese American artist Simone Fattal was also invited to create an installation that used poems written by the inmates.

The show titled “With My Eyes,” is curated by Chiara Parisi, director of the Center Pompidou-Metz, and Bruno Racine, the former president of the French National Library. It will be on view April 20 through November 24.

The Vatican has been represented at the prestigious exhibition since 2013.

Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, the Vatican’s culture and education minister, said in a press conference on Monday the decision to install the 2024 pavilion at the Giudecca Women’s Prison was “unexpected,” but honored Gospel teachings on caring for the hungry, as well as Pope Francis’s appeals to have empathy for the incarcerated.

“‘With My Eyes,’ wishes to focus our attention on the importance of how, responsibly, we conceive, express and construct our social, cultural and spiritual co-existence,” he wrote. “Seeing with one’s own eyes confers a unique status to vision, as it involves us directly in reality and makes us not spectators, but witnesses. This is what religious and artistic experience have in common: Neither of the two ceases to value the total and anti-conformist implication of the subject.”

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