Maurizio Cattelan’s retrospective piece, “ALL”, now showing at the Guggenheim Museum, New York,  is a journey into the mind of a contemporary artist who clearly loves to moonlight as a comedic genius, media critic, and cultivated prankster. The installation, made from all the works the Italian-born artist has produced since 1989, reveals Cattelan’s consistent examination of life vs death. Each piece is suspended from ropes as if Cattelan is literally hanging his subjects at the gallows for all of our amusement.

The massive work also displays the artist’s tongue-in-cheek approach to criticizing the very culture that has made him one of the most celebrated artist of his generation. The “Ashton Kutcher of the art world” makes it  blatantly clear what his feelings are about the high art establishment, corporate greed, and well, basically everything, with the controversial center-piece of “ALL”, a giant marble hand with one particular finger pointing toward the rafters.

It’s this “inside-joke” artistic theme that irritates many of Cattelan’s critics the most. This sense that he’s profiting off disparaging the very system that lifted him to the heights he now is able to occupy. But like other provocative satirists, from Thomas Middleton to Trey Parker & Matt Stone, Cattelan creates the art and allows the viewer to decide how serious to take the joke.

While many art enthusiasts still don’t know what to make of Cattelan’s work(is it virtuosic or vile?), it is defiantly something to experience.

“ALL” will be showing at the Guggenheim Museum, New York until January 22, 2012

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