Maurizio Cattelan covers windows in Toilet Paper
Images from Italian artist's biannual magazine, Toilet Paper adorn the windows of Palais de Tokyo in Paris
A casual passer-by on Avenue du President Wilson in Paris's 16th arrondissement might think the windows of contemporary art institution Palais de Tokyo had been given over to a particularly provocative advertising campaign. However, after taking in all seven of the glossy sets of images - including shots of five disembodied male hands holding red lipsticks and a playing card wedged between a naked woman's buttocks - the viewer is none the wiser as to what he or she should buy.
These photographs, while possessing all the trappings of commercial photography, actually come from Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's Toilet Paper magazine, a twice-yearly publication of slickly surrealist images, which he has been putting together with the fashion photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari since 2010.
The Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay commissioned the Toilet Paper windows, as part of a series of ongoing "interventions on the building", which include installations in the Palais de Tokyo's staircases, signs and on the walls too.
It's hard to define what sets Toilet Paper's pictures apart from other acerbic examples of contemporary image making. Cattelan – who is perhaps best known for his sculpture La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999) which depicts the the pope being struck down by a meteorite – told The New Yorker in 2011 that the images in Toilet Paper have “a special twist. An uncanny ambiguity.”
Indeed, Toilet Paper's photographs seem to be putting the wit back into glossy photography in a kind of reverse engineering of the process in which, for instance, cigarette brands and stadium rock videos once sanitised surrealism for their own commercial imagery a few decades ago.
The Toilet Paper windows went up last month, and should remain on view for sometime. As this isn't a formal show, the gallery hasn't said when it intends to take them down, and only adds that these "interventions" are to be "renewed" every 12 to 18 months. Until then, Parisians should enjoy Cattelan's ribald images, while supressing any inchoate commercial urges. Find out more about the whole thing here. To learn more about this great Italian artist, please take a look at our Maurizio Cattelan monograph. To understand Christian Marclay better, take a look at our great book. And before you buy anything, do sign up for our Phaidon Club to gain reward points as well as access to interesting events and truly useful offers.