This is a repost of an essay I wrote in 2014 whilst at college.
On Friday 5th September, I visited ‘The Human Factor‘ exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, in Southbank, London. I’m going to be writing a full post on the exhibition overall, but for now I’m going to focus on one piece that was there; Him, by Maurizio Cattelan; which in my opinion was the most powerful of all the artworks on exhibit.
Spoiler Alert: This post shows the artwork from the front, as well as the back which is how you would initially see it.
About the Artist
Maurizio Cattelan was born in 1960, in Padua, Italy. In the 1980’s he started his career making wooden furniture in Forli, where he acquainted himself with some major designers; in order to promote himself, he made a catalogue of his work and sent it to galleries, opening himself up to design and Contemporary art.
Cattelan is known for using his artwork to mock various systems of order, other people and even himself at times, he is known as the joker of the art world; and fills the role with comfort.
Cattelan’s work has been featured in various solo exhibitions in some of the most renowned museums and galleries, including: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée du Louvre, Paris; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He also founded The Wrong Gallery in 2002.
Maurizio now lives and works in New York and Milan.
Some Notable Works:
- La Nona Ora (1999)
- Him (2001)
- Now (2004)
As I entered the room, facing the back of what seems to be a young schoolboy, kneeling down and looking ahead; I was instantly aware of the presence of power that the space around the sculpture itself evokes. There was a very foreboding feeling as I approached closer, the apprehension making me step slower to round the figure and see it face on.
So many different elements add to this compelling feeling that grew inside me with each step I took; the space, the silence, the lighting; those are just some aspects, there are many that I couldn’t put into words so easily, it’s a very unique environment to be drawn into.
When I finally made it to the front of the piece things changed dramatically, every original idea I had of what this piece would show or tell was snatched away and replaced with something profoundly different.
What I had originally seen as a young boy kneeling, had dissolved and been replaced with the image of Adolf Hitler, praying. He is looking upwards at an angle, making it near impossible to gain eye contact from the incredibly life like face of the man. As soon as I realized who it was, he didn’t seem so small, but the room appeared to be much larger than it actually was.
It then got me wondering as to what he would have been praying for, possibly forgiveness, but would that be so? When he never thought that he was in the wrong for the sickening genocidal campaign that he led. Maybe it was a prayer for a larger army, or success in his campaign, which I wouldn’t find surprising in the slightest; a man so warped, that the idea of praying for success in massacre would seem appropriate. Whatever it was though, Cattelan has captured the image brilliantly and to great effect.
I continued through the exhibition and saw everything on display there, so many awe-inspiring artworks and intricately life-like sculptures; but none of them, captured me in the same way as this piece did, in such a way that the feelings I felt, accompanied by the visual, will be held within my memory for the rest of my life.