The all-over popcorn-print wallpaper, sumptuous gold curtains, garish chandeliers, and campy cat rug installed at Fondation Beyeler's booth at Art Basel Miami Beach was the work of Toilet Paper, a magazine and art collective comprised of the artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari.
At the early December art extravaganza, fair-goers encountered fantastical rooms of an imagined house where oily tangles of spaghetti not only cover the walls as a wallpaper motif but spill out from the pantry cabinets, tableware and oven. In the bedroom, a floral bedspread punctuates a queenly bed that sits on a raised platform—separate from the swirl of cabinets and whimsical props that fill the space. (The installation, named "Maze of Quotes," was designed in collaboration with Gufram Seletti.)
Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is known for his eccentric installations, satirical sculptures, and offbeat tableaux of found objects. This fall the Guggenheim commissioned him to install "America," an 18-karat, fully functional toilet in one of the museum's restrooms. Unsurprisingly, the fixture attracted a flurry of media attention, with grabby headlines like "Waiting to Pee in America" and "Behold the Throne."
Cattelan and Ferrari often work on projects for the New York Times Magazine—illustrating editorial stories with sharp vision and no shortage of surrealistic details. Readers might recognize their November 29 cover, a color-saturated map of the Americas with a scissors poised next to a cut-out of the U.S. It illustrated an article with the fatalistic title "The End of The Anglo-American Order." (In February 2015, they created an inverse of that cover, with a disembodied hand show painting a globe that is almost entirely blue, save for the contours of the U.S., which is the last country standing.)
Many of the objects in Toilet Paper's Basel installation are on sale on their website. One can buy the foam cactus and egg sculpture that sits in the corner of the living room on their website for an undisclosed price (shared only with shoppers that specifically inquire). Amusingly, the piece is titled "God."
Variations of tombstone sculptures with the epitaph "The End" crop up in their installations as well as their webshop. The product description asserts that turning a tombstone into a functional seat is "an act of final resistance" against the norms of interior design—one that is rich with "grotesque irony." For only 499 euros, fans can take home their very own, foam version and bring this strain of irony into their everyday lives.
The impulse to collect objects and display them in maximalist combination is one that Toilet Paper has clearly mastered; at once critics of consumerism and shop-owners themselves, they occupy a unique cultural position and playfully yet forcefully, demand our full engagement.
Splash photo via Instagram.