The Italian Almanac

Maurizio Cattelan

Is that Art?

Animal rights activists denounced the use of 2,000 mummified doves in art work by Maurizio Cattelan at the Venice Biennale art exhibition. Protesters brandished a large photo of the artist and a long banner cursing him in vulgar terms - in Veneto dialect - at the entrance of the Giardini, where the 54th edition of the fair, called "Illuminations", is taking place.

"This is not illumination. This is total darkness," said Paolo Mocavero, of the group 100% Animalisti, which means '100% Pro-animal' in Italian. Another banner read, "Illumination? Biennale, shame of the nation!"

Cattelan's installation features 2,000 doves purposely embalmed and splayed across the floors of ten or so rooms of the exhibit's main pavilion. They are also present in the entire exhibition's entry room along with a Tintoretto.

The art installation met protest already at the Biennale's inauguration, when Venetian animal rights associations publicly questioned where the bird corpses came from, how they were killed and with what authorization.

Cattelan is an Italian artist best known for satirical, impious sculptures.