Known for his dark humour, his art evolves around social observations within a satirical context, questioning our norms and hierarchies aimed at art and institutions. Cattelan is not only one of the most popular artists but also very controversial.
Born in Padua, Italy, in 1960, Cattelan has no formal training and considers himself an “art worker” rather than an artist. He has said that in addition to reading art catalogues, "making shows has been my school". He has been described by Jonathan P. Binstock, curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art "as one of the great post-Duchampian artists and a smartass, too".
A mixed-media artist, curator, and publisher - following his collaboration with Italian photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari to create an editorial for W magazine's Art Issue in 2009. The following year, they founded the magazine Toiletpaper, a bi-annual, picture-based publication. In 2011, he provoked a lively debate with an installation of two thousand stuffed pigeons, presented at the 54th Venice Biennale. That same year, Maurizio Cattelan was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, titled All. The exhibition compiled of 130 artworks that were suspended from the ceiling. On the occasion of the exhibition, Cattelan announced his early retirement, only to return back to creating art and exhibiting further.
“I understand if people think it’s just a joke or another trick of mine” —Maurizio Cattelan
From September 2016 and for one year long, in the same museum's restroom, he replaced the toilet with a fully functional replica cast in 18-karat gold, titled America, the toilet was made available for use to the public. In late 2019, a solo exhibition of his major works, Victory is Not an Option, at the Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire: on the night of the opening, America, which was already exhibited at the Guggenheim, was stolen from. Another controversy followed in December 2019, during the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, where Cattelan exhibited a banana duct-taped on a gallery´s booth, Cattelan´s artwork stimulated debates and discussions among audiences about the nature and the value of art.