Hitler is making headlines these days and for no good reason, unless you count "Him" -- a sculpture of the Fuhrer on his knees, as if pleading for forgiveness -- that outsold everything else at Christie's auction last Sunday. What's more, "Him" went for a price higher than the artist, Maurizio Cattelan, ever got -- $17.2 million.
Why would an artist fashion a figure of the Fuhrer? Do we have to ask? Wasn't it for the notoriety and the money that it brought? Money isn't everything Not according to the artist, who told Interview magazine in 2009 that money was the last thing on his mind.
“When there is too much money at stake, the whole system gets corrupted. Artists can be very vulnerable to these mechanisms... #Art should be able to be innovative without compromising itself. That’s why I believe artists should have bigger pre-occupations than checking the price tags on their work or becoming curators’ darlings.”
It’s notable that Cattelan, who was a furniture maker in his native Italy, came up with “Him” in 2001, eight years before teling Interview magazine that he was above compromising himself. Is he asking us to believe that Hitler was one of his “bigger pre-occupations?"
For that matter, did Pope John Paul II also weighing on Cattelan’s s mind when he concocted a sculpture of the pontiff being mowed down by a meteorite? The same question goes to his 36-foot marble replica of a middle finger pointed up in the derisive give-the-finger gesture. Was flipping the bird a sign of a “bigge pre-occupation?"
Flushing out the truth
Then there’s Cattelan’s latest opus, a working toilet made of gold to be installed this summer in a public bathroom at the Guggenheim Museum in New York..
Explaining his Hitler statue, he told the Independent, an online British newspaper last Monday, “Hitler is everywhere, haunting the spectre of history; and yet he is unmentionable, irreproducible, wrapped in a blanket in silence.”
Well, hardly in silence. "The Hitler Rap," a mocking song sung by comedian Mel Brooks in the 1983 flick "To Be Or Not To Be" lingers in memory. So do the words of Brad Pitt playing Lt. Aldo Raines in the 2009 film "Inglorious Bastards" rallying his troops: "Nazi ain't got no humanity. They're the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin', mass murderin' maniac and they need to be de-stroyed."
Wearing out his welcome
Also far from silent is Salvador Dali's attention-getting “Hitler Masturbating,” 1973 hanging in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. So it can’t be said that the visual arts haven’t given the subject of Hitler its due. And how is this for irony? While Hitler began as a failed artist who twice failed entrance exams to art schools, an art work called “Him” is an art world hit. #Buzz