This blog post is part of a summer-long series of posts written by Humanities Blogger, Kristen Costa. Check back weekly to get a fresh, informative look at the themes explored in the films we’ll be showing as part of the newportFILM Outdoors series, presented by Lila Delman Real Estate International.

Art, no matter when it was created, is often made to provoke thinking and inspire conversation. Contemporary art — art made within the current time period — can often push limits and provoke conversation with its extreme visual representations which are often social commentaries on politics, cultural themes, or society in general. It often challenges the notion of what many consider art.

Maurizio Cattelan is definitely one of those artists who pushes the envelope of what is acceptable or beautiful in contemporary art. Cattelan challenges on what’s appropriate, something that has become almost commonplace for many contemporary artists. The documentary Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back showcases the art and the man behind it, in particular the 2011 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Perhaps what’s most interest about Cattelan is that the actual physical pieces of his artwork are not made by him, but rather are various pieces put together to create his ideas and questions to you as the viewer. He uses expert craftsmen and other artists to create his designed pieces and installations. His work is highly conceptual and is often referred to as “hyper realist.” One art critic has said of Cattelan that he is either “the best artist of our time or the worst.”

Cattelan has been called the art world’s greatest joker because of the subject matter and way he displays some of his pieces, like a Pinocchio sculpture that appeared to be drowning in a pool. What Cattelan thinks are humorous, others may find controversial, taboo, and downright offensive. And that’s what his intention is — to provoke a response and conversation about the ideas. In the Guggenheim exhibition, he suspended 128 figures in the central area of the museum — even if you didn’t like the individual sculptures or his ideas, that feat of engineering alone is amazing.

To see the installation at the Guggenheim, check out the exhibition here:

For more information on this week’s newportFILM Outdoors screening of MAURIZIO CATTELAN: BE RIGHT BACK, visit

The Humanities Blog Series is made possible through major funding support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independant affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Council seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.