Suspended animation

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The Independent Culture
A STUFFED horse suspended from the ceiling is the artist Maurizio Cattelan's contribution to an exhibition opening this week at the Tate Gallery in London. Twentieth Century (Novecento) will go on display as part of Abracadabra, an international show of 15 young artists whose work, the Tate says, is characterised by "fantasy, humour, invention, surprise and provocation, applied to the everyday world and everyday life".

The subject, a racehorse called Tiramisu which died of natural causes, is only partly stuffed; to keep it from weighing too much, the pelt was stretched over a frame. In the process, the legs were deliberately elongated, to add to the pathos. The work first went on display in the Museum of Modern Art in Castello di Rivoli, Turin, two years ago.

Cattelan, 39, is aware that the animal-mad British may react strongly to the inclusion of his suspended chestnut mare (and to that of his Bidibidobidiboo, a small tableau of a squirrel slumped over a kitchen table, gun at its side, in a suggested suicide). But he says he does not mean to shock. "I know the British might be really worried about my animals, but that's part of the work - art is all a matter of barter," he says. "I give you an artwork and you give me back critics, laughs, insults or cheers."

Using animals in his art has become increasingly complicated, he says. "When I started using them, I wasn't interested in the morbid relationships that seem to tie people to animals. My animals were intended to be characters, images, things. But the more I work with animals, the more perverse the relationships between animals and human beings seem to be. People seem to be really intrigued, disturbed and charmed by my animals."

Maurizio Cattelan, who was born in Padua, received no formal art training and worked as a cook, gardener, nurse, mortuary attendant and furniture designer before turning his hand to art. Often galleries have commissioned work from him, then refused to show it. One rejected idea was to hold a fake skinhead rally. "I wanted to put up some posters announcing this meeting, to create a bit of tension using these stereotypes." Another gallery turned down his plan to have a dog bark at the spectators. He did successfully exhibit a live donkey at a show in New York as a symbol of his own failed imagination: "Like a moron, a jackass".