Maurizio Cattelan’s New Work Pays Visceral Tribute to the Pain of 9/11

The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has seldom shied from creating works that elevate eyebrows. He is, in any case, the individual liable for that $120,000 banana, and the standard, extremely symbolic gold bathroom that went lacking in 2019.

In his newest solo exhibition unveiled Wednesday at Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, Cattelan has set out to take care of much less irreverent, extra existential themes like the fragility of life, reminiscence, and collective loss.

But his work stays provocative as ever: The third half of his exhibit, “Breath Ghosts Blind,” is a hulking resin monolith being pierced all the approach via by an airplane — a visceral and graphic reminder of 9/11 from a person who was in New York that day.

“‘Blind’ is something I’ve been thinking about for years,” Cattelan mentioned, in accordance to a transcript of an interview that can quickly be revealed in the catalog of the exhibition. “I had to walk home from LaGuardia, which took hours, and the things I saw stayed with me.”

“Achieving a certain distance, not just in space but in time, becomes a necessary step in order to remember,” he added in the interview, by which he famous that it felt like “an important, almost necessary step for ‘Blind’ to be presented for the first time in Italy.”

Over the final 19 years, artwork depicting the deadliest assault in the historical past of the United States has been fraught, carrying with it the weight of hundreds of lives misplaced whereas additionally taking into account the ideas and emotions of those that survived.

Some direct, confrontational works have come beneath scrutiny. In 2002, as an example, Eric Fischl’s bronze sculpture, “Tumbling Woman” — of a unadorned individual falling to her loss of life from one of the towers — was faraway from view after just a few days in entrance of Rockefeller Center following public outcry.

At the identical time, extra summary representations, comparable to the memorials constructed at floor zero and at the Pentagon, have largely been embraced.

Does Cattelan’s work come at a time, as the 20th anniversary of the assaults method, when views have advanced?

As lately as 2017, the Guggenheim Museum’s then-chief curator, Nancy Spector, mentioned she had been “hesitant at best” when Cattelan approached her a few potential sculpture of an airplane embedded in an edifice.

“The timing (and maybe the location) was off,” Spector, who has since left the museum, wrote in a forthcoming essay for the HangarBicocca catalog. “After 9/11, especially for New Yorkers, nothing felt safe.”

Even 4 years later, Spector, in the essay, acknowledged that, “‘Blind’ will, no doubt, elicit strong emotional responses.” But, she added: “The fact that this monolith of a sculpture will be first shown in a museum context in Milan as part of the artist’s exhibition — and not in the midst of New York City — will allow the work to breathe, as it were, and test itself publicly as an object of deep and complex meaning.”

The Guggenheim declined to remark.

Roberta Tenconi, the curator at HangarBicocca, and Vicente Todolí, the creative director, mentioned in an electronic mail that they “did not have any doubt” about exhibiting “Blind.”

“Art is an expression of freedom and the role of a museum, we believe, is to be a place for sharing different voices and for generating thoughts and reflections on the world we are living in,” they wrote in a joint electronic mail.

“‘Blind’ definitely recalls a dark and tragic moment in history, and it is there to remember the fragility and the vulnerability of all human beings,” they continued. “Exhibiting the work in New York is a decision up to the cultural and art institutions there.”

In 2011, the Guggenheim, beneath Ms. Spector, placed on a 21-year retrospective of Cattelan’s work that included 128 of his sculptures, together with one of Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite and one other of Adolf Hitler kneeling in prayer.

The Cattelan exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in 2011, with a cascading set up.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

“‘Blind’ is a work about pain and its social dimension, it is there to show the fragility of a society where loneliness and egotism are on the rise,” Cattelan mentioned in his interview with HangarBicocca’s curators. “I must say the pandemic made death visible again in our lives: It’s something we’re always trying to suppress and forget.”

Spector’s essay admires Cattelan’s new sculpture at the same time as she acknowledges the depth of its imagery. “Like a true memorial,” she wrote, “‘Blind’ holds sacred the thousands of lives lost.”

“It is not meant as an ironic gesture,” she wrote. “But as with the most searing of Cattelan’s radical, destabilizing sculptures, it stares evil in the face and dares to question the role authority might have played in the perpetuation of such immorality.”