The Vatican Has Invited Maurizio Cattelan and Corita Kent to Participate In Its Venice Biennale Pavilion

Pope Francis will visit the Vatican pavilion in April, marking the first papal attendance at the Venice Biennale.

La Nona Ora, a realistic model of Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite, created by artist Maurizio Cattelan, is seen at Blenheim Palace on September 12, 2019 in Woodstock, England. The work stirred controversy when it was shown at the 2001 Venice Biennale. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images.

Maurizio Cattelan will create a large outdoor installation for the Vatican’s Venice Biennale presentation, details of which were released on Monday, March 11. The exhibition includes works by eight artists and will be installed at the Giudecca Women’s Prison. Many of the works will be created with the active participation of inmates.

Known for his satirical hyper-realistic sculptures, Cattelan shocked Catholics with his provocative The Ninth Hour (La Nona Ora)—featuring a life-sized wax effigy of Pope John Paul II lying on his side, crushed by a massive black meteorite—that traveled to multiple venues including the 2001 Biennale. The Italian artist’s latest work will be installed on the outside of the prison.

Inside will be a number of works created with the help of the women at the prison. A 12-minute video installation, currently in production, features some of the inmates as actors. Directed by actor Zoe Saldana and her husband, Italian director and producer Marco Perego, the short film revolves around the theme of freedom. Some inmates have provided photographs of themselves as children for a work by the French artist, Claire Tabouret; others contributed poems for an installation by the Lebanese-American artist Simone Fattal.

Additionally, works by the late Corita Kent, the American pop artist, social activist, and former Catholic nun, will be displayed in the Giudecca cafeteria. Works by Claire Fontaine and Sonia Gomes will also be on view.

A drawing of an eye over a red and green background with handwritten text underneath

Corita Kent, e eye love, from the “circus alphabet” series (1968). Courtesy of the Corita Art Center Los Angeles and kaufmann repetto Milan / New York and Andrew Kreps New York.

The exhibition, titled “With My Eyes,” is curated by Chiara Parisi, the director of the Center Pompidou-Metz, and Dr. Bruno Racine, former president of the French National Library; it will be open from April 20 until November 24.

Pope Francis has announced he will visit the exhibition on April 28 as part of a planned one-day visit to the Italian city. The visit marks the first time the current Bishop of Rome will attend the biennial.

The Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, has participated in the Venice Biennale since 2013.

Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, the Vatican’s culture minister, said in a press conference on Monday that the decision to house this year’s pavilion in the prison was “unexpected” but in line with the Gospel mandate and Pope Francis’ call to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit the incarcerated.

“‘With my eyes,’ wishes to focus our attention on the importance of how, responsibly, we conceive, express and construct our social, cultural and spiritual co-existence,” he said. “Seeing with one’s own eyes confers a unique status to vision, as it involves us directly in reality and makes us not spectators, but witnesses. This is what religious and artistic experience have in common: Neither of the two ceases to value the total and anti-conformist implication of the subject.”

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