Amid the admiration and admonishment of Maurizio Cattelan's career hides the resolute reality of the artist's unlikely and unconventional achievements in a manufactured and manipulated world. In filmmaker Maura Axelrod's debut documentary Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back, audiences see the story of an imaginative and misunderstood protagonist whose eccentric desire for success is realized through socially constructed controversy.

Through feats of escapism and anxiety, Cattelan creates an alternative life for himself in the art world. His works, like taxidermy of a suicidal squirrel, a large marble sculpture of a middle finger and the bust of a half-naked woman as a "trophy wife," give Cattelan a Banksy-esque bad-boy vibe that art aficionados ache for.

Truth be told, though, most modern art is lost on the masses. For this reason, Cattelan's well-regarded style breaks traditionally refined and reserved boundaries in the fine arts. Conjuring motifs of failure through humor and cheeky visualization, his artistic choices catapult the inner workings of his mind directly into the lives of the public.

Axelrod captures Cattelan's mysterious indifference towards his subjects and his fans while throwing in a few twists and turns of her own directorial vision. Through interviews with curators, collectors and con artists, Axelrod uncovers the compelling story of a conceptual artist and, ultimately, the untold stories of what makes him tick. While most artists seek to dedicate themselves solely to the creation of their art, Cattelan's dedication is rather to the success of his art. Through large-scale schemes of escape and disillusionment, Cattelan's works create a sense of urgency within uncertainty.

Axelrod's film style creates havoc and cathartic chaos, mimicking Cattelan's artistic confusion and contemplation. While the documentary does justice to Cattelan's artistic vision, it might leave audiences uncertain about whether his art is brilliant or bullshit. And maybe that's the point.


+ fast-paced, easy to follow
- modern art—meh


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Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back
Directed by Axelrod
Center for Contemporary Arts,
95 min