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VATICAN CITY – An enormous stuffed crocodile hangs from Cremona’s baptistery vault in the Middle Ages, Maurizio Cattelan’s work re-proposes a permanent dilemma in the church to the Vatican split in two between those in favor of hosting contemporary provocations. Art and those who oppose it instead because they have nothing to do with the spirituality and sanctity of a place. This time to divide and provoke an avalanche of reactions is the stuffed reptile entitled Ego that inaugurated the first edition of the Cremona Contemporary Art Week, inaugurated on May 26 and open until June 4.
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Ego is so named because, for Cattelan, the crocodile is a kind of self-portrait, which he considers close or similar to his personality. In fact, it is a work that puts him in close relationship with La nona ora, the famous work that depicts John Paul II on Earth hit by a meteorite. In fact, the Ego was shown for the first time in 1999 at Cattelan’s solo exhibition at Oxford’s Blenheim Palace (where America’s famous all-gold toilet was stolen).
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Of course, Ego isn’t the first contemporary work to be hosted in a sacred space. In the past, James Hyde’s Airbag (Cushion of Air) in Saint-Fiacre’s church in Millrand drew horrible criticism: according to several critics, it was a cumbersome piece that seemed to have no other purpose than displacing a general. Or even the six-meter stack of metal pots by Cameroonian Pascal Marthín Tayo, which was exhibited in Lyon’s Church of San Bonaventure thirteen years ago.
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Among all this, the Venice Art Fair was among the first events to experiment with the use of churches as exhibition spaces for contemporary art. Indeed, some editions of the Biennale have envisioned turning the city’s churches into pavilions hosting works by artists such as Christoph Reutemann (Schiefen Ebene, San Stae Church – 1993), Pipilotti Rist (Homo Sapiens Sapiens, San Stae Church – 2005) and Anish Kapoor (Ascension, San Stae Church – 2005). Giorgio Maggiore – 2011), Stefano Cagol (Council, San Gallo Church – 2011) and Oksana Mas (Post-vs-Proto-Renaissance, San Fantino Church – 2011).
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Above all, Catholics who turn up their noses at a stuffed crocodile are more interested in tradition, for some time at war to defend holy places from irrelevant or even offensive elements. On site blog.messainlatino.it Protests are collected from different communities. The comment is fierce: “Having watched with horror how the Archdiocese of Cremona transforms places dedicated to the celebration of the sacraments into exhibition spaces intended solely to satisfy the selfishness of the media personality of the moment, we repeat the question in his face of this horror: do they deserve it eight in a thousand?”
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