Is This Hitler-Style Kneeling Donald Trump at a Basel Hotel Maurizio Cattelan’s Latest Stunt?
Could it be his latest post-retirement jape?
As art collectors, dealers, and revelers hit Switzerland for the latest edition of the Art Basel fair, a small sculpture quietly installed at the hotel Les Trois Rois is stealing some of the attention away from the multimillion-dollar offerings at the convention center as well as the fair’s supersized curated “Unlimited” section.
A rendition of a kneeling Donald Trump at the five-star hotel, which is a major watering hole for Basel VIPs, is now tearing up Instagram. It precisely echoes Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture Him (2001), which shows a praying Adolf Hitler, suggesting that this acid commentary on the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee could be the Italian prankster-artist’s latest post-retirement stunt. (Cattelan’s Hitler sculpture went for a record $17.2 million at Christie’s New York in May.)
“I wanted to destroy it myself,” Cattelan has said of his Hitler sculpture, as quoted in Christie’s sale catalogue. “I changed my mind a thousand times, every day. Hitler is pure fear; it’s an image of terrible pain. It even hurts to pronounce his name; and yet that name has conquered my memory, it lives in my head, even if it remains taboo. Hitler is everywhere, haunting the specter of history, and yet he is unmentionable, irreproducible, wrapped in a blanket of silence.”
Trump has been compared to Hitler more than once (though, to be fair, contra Cattelan’s assessment of him as “unmentionable,” who hasn’t?) and there’s been much debate among political commentators on whether it’s accurate to brand him a fascist. The creator of the diminutive sculpture in Basel isn’t pulling any punches, however.
Trump has inspired an outpouring of commentary from artists, ranging from Rachel Harrison’s current “situation” at New York gallery Greene Naftali, populated by Trump piñatas, to a Trump headstone that was snuck into Central Park, to a rendition of a nude Trump, and on and on. It this were a Cattelan work, it would be the highest-profile artist yet to weigh in with a short-fingered vulgarian-themed work.
“It’s the only art I’ve seen here so far addressing the US election,” New York collector Sue Stoffel told artnet News via email from Basel. “Everyone is much more interested in Brexit and Russian soccer hooligans.” Stoffel says a reliable source tells her that the work is by another artist.
Requests for comment directed to the hotel and to Cattelan’s representatives were not immediately returned.
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