Maurizio Cattelan Takes Us Down the Rabbit Hole at Fondation Beyeler Gala
Nestled in the tranquil, hilly outskirts of Basel, Switzerland, the Fondation Beyeler was anything but quiet this past Saturday night, as it celebrated its annual Summer Night’s Gala, with Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari—in their joint project dubbed “Toiletpaper”—at the forefront.
Founded in 1997 by gallery owners and collectors Ernst and Hildy Beyeler, the Fondation Beyeler, designed by Renzo Piano, recently announced an $82 million expansion to be overseen by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. This is no small feat for an institution that is largely self-financed, and Saturday’s event, titled “Super Ball,” further helped to benefit the museum’s growth, raising over $1 million to support exhibition programming.
Under Cattelan and Ferrari’s guidance, the sleek museum was transformed into a veritable wonderland. Guests were immersed both in the duo’s vision as well as, quite literally, in their work: all the galleries were designed by Toiletpaper, including the wallpaper and most of the furniture.
The invitation encouraged “fancy dress,” resulting in an array of costumes. A room with makeup booths, rows of wigs, and racks of clothing was available for guests to embellish their ensembles, which ranged from Karl Lagerfeld—complete with a stuffed Choupette underarm—to a nun sporting the iconic face make-up of Natalie Portman from the film Black Swan. (The nun’s costumes were part of the Toiletpaper devised theme for the evening.)
Unlike previous galas, which have been conducted under the artistic direction of the likes of Marina Abramović or Olafur Eliasson, the dinner was not held in one room, but rather scattered throughout the museum, with each gallery’s dining room set, designed by Toiletpaper specifically for the 2016 Summer Night’s Gala, available for purchase and auctioned during dinner, beginning at 8,000 Swiss Francs. In keeping with the dining theme, tablecloths were images of messy, red spaghetti, and wallpapers teemed with images of food.
But the crowning spectacle of the night was the live auction, commandeered by legendary auctioneer Simon de Pury, who was outfitted in a fully-sequined silver suit. Standing atop a rotating stage in the center of the gallery, de Pury auctioned off lots that were brought in by technicians dressed as barefoot nuns with gloves.
Bids were indicated by gesturing hands, but lightsabers or costumes also proved useful in identifying interested buyers. “I have a bid from The Banana Man!” de Pury shouted at one point before correcting himself, “No, no, I see now it’s from a little red devil.” Upon the auctioning of vintage wines and champagnes donated from Mr. Beyeler’s private wine cellar, de Pury was ever the salesman: “When you love good art, you love good wine,” he said. “And when you love good wine, you are Ernst Beyeler.”
Cattelan and Ferrari were on hand throughout, blowing through loud whistles to applaud a sale or comment, alongside a particularly vivacious attendee dressed as a blonde cheerleader, who danced and performed acrobatics around the balloon-filled room. Other guests included artist Pipilotti Rist, Art Basel fair director Marc Spiegler, Hauser and Wirth’s James Koch, dealer Almine Rech, and collectors Michael Ringier and Didier and Dominique Guyot.
The auction culminated in the sale of Toiletpaper Lounge Installation (2016). “I do need your attention … this is important,” de Pury said as he hushed the crowd. “It is the full, full, full room—all the furniture, all the tables, all the tombstones, all the wallpaper—that you see next door,” he said, raising the tension among bidders.
Described in the auction catalogue as “the unique world of Toiletpaper, with all its surrealist and quirky pictorial language, implemented in material form and all its visual wealth,” the installation—which was estimated between 80,000 to 120,000 Swiss Francs—featured individually customized wallpaper, Toiletpaper’s signature tombstone motif in stool form, couches in the shapes of soap, lamps, sofas, as well as cushions and carpets.
Though far less eventful or hallucinatory (no dancing bananas here), the silent auction boasted an impressive selection of works by artists such as Gerhard Richter, Wade Guyton, Ellsworth Kelly, Mark Tobey, and Jean Tinguely.
“Super Ball” left no stone unturned when it came to detail. Toiletpaper’s mark was everywhere, including on the toilet paper itself, the squares of which featured the face of Hillary Clinton. It’s a move that leaves little room for interpretation—a perfect accompaniment to that gilded toilet.
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