Maurizio Cattelan – Him – 2001

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 YorkMusée 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)
Maurizio Cattelan - Him - 2001
Maurizio Cattelan – Him – 2001

My Views

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.

Maurizio Cattelan - Him - 2001
Maurizio Cattelan – Him – 2001

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.

JG

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5 Comments

  1. I doubt Hitler would be praying. Read Mien Kampf . He was absolutely convinced the Jews were the antithesis of everything pure and German, the corrupters of society. I am not aware how his childhood Catholicism influenced him but it was a tenet of RCC from Middle Ages that the Second Coming of Christ was contingent on the conversion of the Jews.

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    1. I’ve been meaning to read Mein Kampf for a while now just get caught up in so many other books that I never get round to it, although after seeing and writing this I probably should give it a read. In honesty, just from what I do know of Hitler, I wouldn’t have imagined him as a man of prayer and even if he was, he was certainly a hypocrite.

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      1. Hitler was a psychotic self loathing bundle of hatred and blame wrapped in way too much power for his, or anyone else’s good. He was loathsome – and truly – the only reason to discuss him at all is so that history understands how not to repeat this act of despicable aggression.

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      2. That’s a very true point to make and a fair and well shared opinion, although on the other hand this post is more so about the sculpture and the meaning behind it both envisioned and created by the artist. I don’t believe that Hitler himself had a single repentant fibre in his being, also even to only discuss him in order for people to understand how not to repeat his actions and mentality doesn’t work in all cases, there are still people of the same thinking as him and worse, the world is a sad place and full of aggressive and evil beings.

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  2. Powerful post Josh! I saw a small boy from the first painting from the artist from a different angle. And how my mind was thinking such different thoughts on the piece before being shown the person kneeling from a different angle and how dark the painting became. A painting that began at first so innocent. Very cool. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

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