maurizio cattelan's 5 horses at fondation beyeler
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.



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




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 goes goo goo for designboom

image © designboom

  • i love and hate this new piece in equal measure

    owl's house london. says:
  • this is disturbing in the utmost .. a complete desecration of a most beautiful life to achieve some sort of comic representation of the power of man…. to manipulate whatever money can purchase to make more money. I am so glad he has announced his retirement, but unhappy that the proceeds of this sort of disrespect and vulgarity is achieving that … RIP

    pete says:
  • This isn’t art this is mental illness. Get help

    Kate says:
  • I absolutely HATE this.

    Nancy says:
  • This is nothing like ‘art’ as I have come to understand it, and the fool who wrote this article has no sense of style, taste or art. Did Cattelan kill the animals himself or were their deaths ‘commissioned’? Did he perform the taxidermy himself or was it conducted by another party? Even if he had done the dirty work himself, the statement I read is, “I am a selfish narcissistic ponce and if I say it’s art, then by my own sense of self-importance, it must be.”
    It is no more artistic or imaginative than that psychotic little twerp who strangled her cat and made it into a purse. It’s a puerile ‘f*ck you’ to common decency. It required nothing more than the thoughtless and pointless killing of six horses, now rendered lifeless offal posed on a gallery wall. It denies these animals the grace, strength and inherent beauty they possessed in life. I agree whole heartedly with pete and Kate: Disrespectful, vulgar and utterly mental.

    Lisa LeBlanc says:
  • What kind of perverted and sick man is this? Total wacko! This is an example of what is wrong with society. This is no artist but a sadistc bastard

    Majela says:
  • This is truly disturbing! This man is obviously beyond help!

    kd says:
  • Pointless.

    Flick says:
  • Disgusting ! THAT IS NOT ART! There is something most definitely wrong with the person responsible for this. Check yourself in to a mental hospital! you are sick sick sick and need help!

    Cindy Riley Myers says:
  • I don’t know what would possess anybody to kill a beautiful, young horse in the prime of it’s life simply to be able to stuff it, hang it on a wall and call it “art”. It is like that horrible idiot, Guilermo Vargas, in South America who tied up a starving dog and withheld food and water so the audience could watch it die in agony, and be delighted they were privileged to see such “art”. Millions of signatures disagreed, and the same people would agree that this is just as repulsive.

    Brenda Young says:
  • The over used term “art is in the eye of the beholder”, is pure bullshit! Many times art is used to provoke the emotions of shock and disgust. This piece is not the mark of a true artist. It is the mark of a sick, twisted individual. This display is no different than displaying headless human bodies. Cattelan is a talentless ass, and I hope to see his headless ass sticking out of a billboard. Now, THAT would be art!!

    Barbara Sunblade says:
  • I wanna ram this “artist’s” head right thrue the wall. This is not art! Art is supposed to be beautiful and graceful, this is sick and outright disturbing.

    Gaby Hoerauf says:
  • How utterly appalling. As a horse owner, I am disgusted by this. Horses are such beautiful, magnificent creatures…to me they are literally living art…to see them displayed like this is just sick and sad.

    Monica Gase says:
  • When an artist loses his ability to create meaningful art, he creates a spectacle to draw to himself the attention his art no longer merits. Someone needs to get this pitiful man some help.

    Elaine Nash says:
  • I would love to see this douche bag killed and hanging from a wall. And all should boycott anywhere these atrocities are displayed

    Cheryl DeLagrange says:
  • how would he like it if we cut his head of and nailed him to a wall this man cant even be called human

    cameron says:
  • Glad this psychotic person is retiring. This is just murder, not art. He could definitely use some of his dirty money to a good shrink .

    Katerina says:
  • SHAME!!!!!!

    Rosa De Luca says:
  • This is totally disgusting , please someone refer this person to a good doctor this person needs medical attention immdiately , we can’t even abuse this person coz this person is really stupid to be abused or harassed .

    Gaurav Sharma says:
  • “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

    ― Albert Einstein

    Roman Jerse says:
  • You call this art. Any person who can see “ART” in this is either a mad man or a maniac. This man is just simply sick and needs to be put in a lunatic asylum. Tomorrow he might take your kids away and put them on display like this. C’mon guys see through this. This is murder and don’t behave like “the Emperor’s new clothes”.

    San M says:
  • I think next time, he would create his art work with headless humans (babies if possible) hanging from the wall.. Wow, what an art.. Hats off to this mentally sick expression of art..

    Abhay D says:
  • Not meaning to insult pigs, Maurizio Cattelan a pig of a human being…(see how I used capitals there?)

    And I suspect that all the voices in his head really enjoy the negative commentary and tell him that’s how unenlightened fools respond to “real” art.

    Alison W. says:
  • I am sorry this is gross who ever called this art needs professional help.

    stef says:
  • What has become of us that this should every have come into being in the first place, I weep at the loss of our humanity.

    Deborah Moderate says:
  • Das geht gar nicht!!!!!

    Inka says:
  • You are obviously a sick and twisted individual. Unfortunately, you currently have the legal right to display your savage, barbaric cruelty. But, remember, we all must answer for the things we do in this life and at some point, you will have to answer for what you’ve done. There are leagues of us working to make sure of it. We will continue to expose you and engage the masses in a total rejection of your “art” (which it’s not).

    It’s obvious that you thrive on this negative feedback which is even more evidence of your sadistic and pathetic nature. You have a perverse perspective that your “art” (which it isn’t) is somehow “worthy” because it evokes emotion in people. But no one views you as an artist. We view as a pathetic loser who has found a home among other pathetic despicable people like yourself who would bother to view what you’ve done.

    The universe will repay you for your cruelty. It’s the law of nature.

    Dr. Regina Milano says:
  • ..this is painful to see…horses are sensitive kind animals that reflect us in so many ways…and is why they are used for therapy successfully….this man obviously knows nothing about their nature…he may as well hang headless humans like that..

    Nicole Colucci says:
  • Disgusting, sick

    Irena Stoop says:
  • Cattalan and all the “people”who worked on this are sick and feel no compassion at all. Pitiful if you think that killing animals is art. Sick is all i can think about if i see this and i think its strange that this is not forbidden becouse it is animal crualty

    S. Kroon says:
  • 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 says:
  • 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 says:
  • This guy needs to be safely tucked away in an institution. Really. Don’t kid yourself.

    Lynn Smith says:
  • 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 says:
  • 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 says:
  • 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 says:
  • 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?

    Amanda says:
  • 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” .

    sara says:
  • 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.

    cait says:
  • 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 says:

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