Contemporary Art in Turin: the Cattelan factor on Artissima 2014 until January 11th 2015

Artissima 2014, the latest edition of the Turin contemporary Art Fair, left behind a few unresolved questions  as to whether the Cattelan Effect on the Fair has been the actual real organisers’ chef d’oeuvre.

Shit and Die installation with two fans

Shit and Die installation with two fans

Maurizio Cattelan, the provocative “retired” artist who defines himself a NON-CURATOR is the non-deviser of the exhibition “Shit and Die“, the curatorial project commissioned and produced by Artissima for the 2014 edition of  the off-fair event, One Torino. The showcase, co-curated by Cattelan with Myriam Ben Salah and Marta Papini, investigates the ambiguity and eeriness of the human condition bringing together universal themes and hidden stories of Turin, legends and gossips of its past as well as traces of its glorious history.

The result is a discretionary composition of vernacular and (some) higher artworks, new commissions and existent pieces from both the collections of unconventional museums throughout Turin and the work of some 60 international artists.

Among the city institutions contributing to the exhibit are Olivetti’s residential units in Ivrea; the Museum of Criminal Anthropology “Cesare Lombroso”; the Museum of Human Anatomy “Luigi Orlando”; Casa Mollino; the Museum of Risorgimento; the Gaia Collection; GAM Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea; the MUSEION Foundation/Enea Righi Collection; the Ettore Fico Foundation; and the Aldo Mondino Foundation.

In a recent interview to art online magazine Artsy Cattelan declared that “the underpinning ambition of the show was to construct a narrative around the “hidden treasures” of the city—urban legends, local gossip -, and an “archeology of chimera.” He also discusses his role of Non-Curator as a chance of having more freedom in building an exhibit without the constraints of the conventional rules, so that the organiser can “follow their guts and intuitions more than any predetermined concept. It was also very exciting to have a glance into the curator/artist relationship from another perspective.”

The show, hosted in the Palazzo Cavour, former home of the eponymous Count,  is divided into 7 sections, each one focused on a main piece suggesting the development of the narration throughout the rooms of the palace. The display in each room both recalls the past splendour as well as hints to the scandalous habits of its former famous owner.


THE HUG by Eric Doeringer

The first section – The Assembly line of dreams – refers to the idea of accumulation as in Plan A(B)CD by Pascale Marthine Tayou, or in THE HUG by Eric Doeringer, a floor to ceiling installation comprised of 40,000 one dollar bills, decorating the exhibition venue’s beautiful palazzo entrance. This piece echos a similar 2011 show by Hans Peter Feldmann, who with 100,000 dollars from the Hugo Boss Prix plastered the walls of the New York Guggenheim.

Eric Doeringer THE HUG 2014 installation view

Eric Doeringer THE HUG 2014 installation view

In the same section the visitors experience Soundtrack, Guy Ben-Ner’s video challenging the cliché of the family as a safe nest, while in the same room sits a set of modernist modulare furniture commissioned by the renowned Italian typewriter company Olivetti in 1971 and designed for the Talponia building by Roberto Gabetti and Aimaro d’Isola. Talponia was located outside of Turin in a small town conceived in the early 1930s as an utopian workers’ village. Each apartment in Talponia included the same set of furniture, that displayed a neutral design and was made from acrylic, industrial steel tubes and grey felt. The collection included more or less 20 pieces, including chairs, beds, benches, shelves and tables.

shit and die I n the event of a moon disaster

Moving on through the baroque palace’s rooms the exhibitions gets to its core section “Double Trouble“: Power and Desire are the focus of these rooms, where Carlo Molino’s Polaroid photos are displayed next to a group of female artists’ provocative works, alluding to the power of sex and to the use of the female body as a tool of sovereignty.

The female artists featuring in this section are: Carol Rama, Lynda Benglis, VALIE EXPORT, Dorothy Iannone, Natalia LL, Sarah Lucas, Dasha Shishkin, Sylvia Sleigh, Andra Ursuta, Alexandra Waliszewska, Lutz Bacher, Tracey Emin and Zoe Leonard. The works focus on the body, probing on subjects such as the relationships between the sexes, social identity, auto-destruction and representation of genders. The creations draw attention to the stereotypes about gender identity and role models, and respond to the conventional notion of masculinity as it is reproduced in the media and understood in popular culture.

In many pieces the woman is portrayed as a powerless seductress, a docile hostage of her own degraded and submissive femininity and trapped in a perverse game in the hands of the masculine superiority; man can manoeuvre the female body and use his ability to affirm his control over the woman.

Running through the In Event of Moon Disaster,  Bite The Dust and Fetish rooms we finally get to the closing gallery: Dead Man Working.

The seventh section is centred on the industry-shaped structure of the city, thus bringing the narrative to its expected though inevitable closure: earthly things are transient.

Martin Creed Work n. 112, Thirty nine metronomes beating time, one at every speed, 1995

Martin Creed Work n. 112, Thirty nine metronomes beating time, one at every speed, 1995