An iconic Maurizio Cattelan sculpture commemorating a bomb attack in Milan that killed five will be shown at the city's Monumental Cemetery from tomorrow. The artist will then donate the work to the municipality after the exhibition closes in November, cementing the city's reputation as one of the world’s great centres for Cattelan’s art.
Perpetrated by members of the Sicilian Mafia in 1993, the bomb attack in Via Palestra also injured nine and caused significant damage to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna and the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea museums. Cattelan’s Lullaby (1994) features two large plastic wraps filled with rubble from the explosion placed on two wooden pallets.
The artist, who splits his time between Milan and New York, recently re-acquired the work from a collector with the intention of donating it to the municipality, a spokesperson for Tommaso Sacchi, Milan’s deputy mayor for culture, told The Art Newspaper. The London auction house Phillips confirmed in an email that it auctioned Lullaby in 2020 but failed to find a buyer; Cattelan then bought the work for an undisclosed sum later that year.
“Lullaby is one of the original artworks I made in 1994 that I bought back in auction and that I’m donating now to Museo del Novecento in Milan," says Cattelan in a statement. "I am happy that this particular work enters the City Collections.”
One of many major fixtures in this year’s Milano Art Week (until 3 April), the installation at the Monumental Cemetery is the first to be shown in the Crematorium Temple, a disused 19th-century crematorium. Lullaby will eventually be displayed in a new wing of the Museo Del Novecento that is billed to open by 2026 and will double the museum’s capacity.
“Maurizio Cattelan is one of the Italian contemporary artists that is most recognised around the world and it is therefore important that his work is better represented in this city’s art collection,” Sacchi said in a written statement to The Art Newspaper. “Moreover, this is a work with a high historic and symbolic value, created during a delicate passage in the city’s recent history. Displaying it at the Monumental Cemetery enhances its significance.”
Another Cattelan installation opens in Milan today, at the Casa Corbellini-Wassermann exhibition space of Massimo de Carlo, Cattelan’s gallerist. Entitled You, the single work project features a dummy of Cattelan hung with a noose from the ceiling of a luxurious bathroom lined with green marble. It is on view by appointment until June.
The two projects follow Thursday’s publication of a report that finds more works by Cattelan are displayed outside Italy than those of any other Italian contemporary artist. The Arte Generali-sponsored report was compiled following interviews with 24 curators and analysis of 30,000 museums and 230,000 artists.
Milan has hosted some of Cattelan's most iconic works. These include the exhibition Breath Ghosts Blind, which closed at Hangar Biccoca last month and offered an eerily literal depiction of the 9/11 terrorist attack, and L.O.V.E. (2010), a 36-foot white marble severed hand with a raised middle finger positioned outside the Italian Stock Exchange. In a precursor of You, the artist hung three dummies of children from a tree in piazza XXIV Maggio in 2004. They were cut down shortly after by a 46-year-old builder who claimed he could not bear to look at them.