maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler
maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler
jun 11, 2013

maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler

five taxidermied horses hanging headless from the wall at the fondation beyeler
photo: serge hasenböhler, basel, courtesy fondation beyeler, riehen/basel




the italian artist maurizio cattelan, who after his 2011 guggenheim retrospective announced his retirement, has an exhibition at the fondation beyeler in basel, switzerland entitled ‘kaputt’. on view until october 6th, 2013, the exhibition recontextualizes a former piece: here, the solitary leaping taxidermied horse of cattelan’s 2007 ‘untitled’ becomes an entire suspended herd.


indeed, the full title of the installation of five horses in ‘kaputt’ is, ‘untitled (all five horses together at once, for the first time)’. two of the animals are artist’s proofs from cattelan’s 2007 ‘untitled’; the remaining three are actual 2007 ‘untitled’ pieces, on loan from various private collections around the world. whereas a solitary horse evokes a sense of loneliness, suggesting a desperate attempt to escape solitude, its transformation into a herd changes the whims of individual experience into orchestrated, intentional movement.


the title of the exhibition as a whole comes from the novel ‘kaputt primavera’ by curzio malaparte, an embellished account based on malaparte’s experiences on the eastern front during WWII. in the text, the author recounts the tragic death of a thousand horses who jumped into finland’s lake ladoga in their attempts to escape a forest fire caused by aerial bombardments. as the horses swam across, the waters of the lake suddenly froze solid, trapping the animals in place, their heads above the water and eyes frozen open. with his exhibition at the beyeler, cattelan seems to offer visitors the view from below lake ladoga’s surface. like the preserving effects of cold water in malaparte’s recount, taxidermy has frozen these animals in space and time, leaving them neither alive nor truly dead, but permanently in suspension, looking outwards at something that gallerygoers are unable to see.



maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler

photo: serge hasenböhler, basel, courtesy fondation beyeler, riehen/basel



the jump [of the single ‘untitled’ horse] is delusional and yet heroic. the five horses transform delusion into panic and individual effort into a feverish crowd. it’s an exodus we’re witnessing, not a search for freedom. like malaparte’s horses in finland that run away from the burning wood into the frozen lake, cattelan’s horses do not seek freedom but survival.

– art critic francesco bonami on maurizio cattelan’s ‘kaputt’ exhibition at the fondation beyeler.



maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler

maurizio cattelan ‘untitled’, 2007
taxidermied horse, 300 x 170 x 80 cm, installation view
photo: axel schneider, courtesy maurizio cattelan’s archive



 maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler

maurizio cattelan ‘untitled’ (2009)
taxidermied horse, steel and felt-tip pen on wood, 55 x 201 x 189 cm
installation view photo: zeno zotti, courtesy maurizio cattelan’s archive
on show in ‘kaputt’ along the five horses is cattelan’s ‘untitled’ donkey of 2009, whose swollen belly is pierced by a pole bearing a sign with the inscription INRI (indicating the latin phrase, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum — jesus of nazareth, king of the jews).


the exhibition is curated by sam keller and associate curator michiko kono.


maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler

maurizio cattelan goes goo goo for designboom

image © designboom

  • One more confirmation of the sickness of the contemporary art scene that adds to my feeling that I chose the wrong line of work. If he weren’t an “artist” he would be institutionalized.

    Robert Buelteman
  • Cattelan is an over glorified taxidermist with a twisted mind. Not an artist. But an egomaniac. And a conformist; conforming to the so-called art of “Shock.” It’s not so difficult to think up various ways to shock, and if you back it with a literary theme, Bang. Instant respect in the art world. It’s not a difficult formula to connive various takes on a theme. He’s merely repeating himself, but with more punch, which intention is to offend, horrify, shock. Cattelan redefines Mediocrity; another rising genre of 21st century post modernism.

  • I totally agree with Amanda above. These were donated horses and this preserves them and if you read the meaning, it ‘seems’ to be a tribute to the horse. I know TRIGGGER was stuffed and that is considered ‘art’. I have seem many stuffed horses in art form, what is different about this? They are simply “looking through the frozen ice” .

  • Wow, I am appalled at how many small minded people have commented on this. First, he didn’t kill the horses, they died of natural causes and were donated or bought by him. Second, I want to know how many people who have posted about how wrong this is have taxidermy in their own home. How is this different from displaying a deer head or fish? Oh, because you say it does?

  • It’s Simple guys if you dont like it dont look at it and don’t write about how much you hate it. also he didnt kill the horses It’s impossible to do that without ruining the fur so the horses died on their own, which ALSO means that the horses owners GAVE the bodies for taxidermy.

    if you want do do something against animal cruelty watch these

    alex van M
  • C’est horrible ce qu’il fait personnelement j’ai signer une petition contre sa c’est inadmissible toutes ses horreures comment on appeler sa de l’art ? Ce gars doit etre sortit d’un azil c’est pas possible !!

    Mathilde Klein
  • THIS IS NOT ART… Its sick, to see these beautiful animals exploited this way, what is up with people and that includes the individuals who thought this would look good and published it.
    I think the so called artist needs a long spell in a mental hospital

    Tracey Hodkinson
  • This guy needs to be safely tucked away in an institution. Really. Don’t kid yourself.

    Lynn Smith
  • Ever been to a hunting sports bar Or A hunting lodge and also at some resturants that imitates the wild west? Dead animals on the wall and displayed while you EAT! What is the difference is it here. ? With this Artist he didnt hunt and killed or turtured the animal …..I know that Europe eats horsemeat…That I am disgusted! This is a disturbing sights but The artist is expressing emotion thouigh this art and is making the viewer realized either the sadness or the horror of the demise of the horse or animal. I dont know but I grieve for the plight of this animal but at the same time it mocks us human on our hypocrisy. Believe me, this is nothing compared to that one artist that had manure splattered all over the image of the Virgin Mary…..Oh yes, How the art is display has its deeper meanings….it is hard to figger out Artists…ANY artist.
    …..It is not for everyone, I agree. So, have a strong stomach and a VERY opened mind.

    D Lloyd
  • Did creativity just died? To what extent will the pseudoartists go to get attention and provoke people? This is far from being art, it’s absurd and disturbing.

    Stefany GG
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