Cattelan’s Work Next Up in newportFILM series

Does some contemporary “art” make you scratch your head and go “WTF?” Or does it leave you in a deep sense of wonder as you ache to interpret the artist’s intent?

Maurizio Cattelan’s work does both. A documentary explaining it, or trying to, “Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back,” is the next documentary on tap in the popular newportFILM Outdoors series, Sept. 1, held on the lawn of the Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Ave.

An art world upstart to say the least, Cattelan is both provocative and elusive, making his career on playful and subversive works that send up the artistic establishment – until a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2011 finally solidified his place in the canon of contemporary art. Director Maura Axelrod “leaves no stone unturned in trying to figure out” who Cattelan is, say newportFILM folks.

newportFILM - Maurizio Cattelan 2

Indeed. This is a film showing work like Cattelan’s wax figure of a young praying Hitler that sold at auction for a record $17.2 million a few years ago, a statue the Simon Wiesenthal Center called “a senseless provocation.” Very disturbing no matter how you slice it are figures of children hanging by their necks from ropes. Another shows a dead Pinocchio floating in water. Another shows Pope John II being struck by a meteor.

The venue and food vendors opens at 6, with pre-show music by Rah, followed by the film at sunset and then a conversation with Dodie Kazanjian, a VOGUE contributing editor who is featured in the film. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5. To RSVP and see a trailer, visit

A review in the New York Times by Roberta Smith in 2011 largely panned Cattelan’s Guggenheim show, but allowed that “other pieces are richly enigmatic. An olive tree planted in a large Minimalist cube of dirt looks great, as if floated out of a Magritte. As does the ostensibly touching but in fact typically ambiguous ‘Not Afraid of Love,’ which is a very lifelike sculpture of an incredibly cute elephant beneath a sheet (with holes for the eyes) that conjures shyness, Halloween and also the Ku Klux Klan.”

WTF or lofty art? See the film and judge for yourself.

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(Photos from newportFILM. For more info on this film and all others, visit



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