MANHATTAN — The Guggenheim's unconventional retrospective of controversial contemporary Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has been one of the most talked about show of the season, inspiring wildly negative reviews and some glowing ones of the art word's prankster.
It has also been attracting huge crowds.
It's too early to know if the show, called "All," will break any records, but since the its Nov. 4 opening through Nov. 28, attendance is up 35 percent compared to the same period last year, Guggenheim officials said.
The popularity of the show — where Cattelan has hung 128 works from the iconic building's oculus and which the 51-year-old claims signals the end of his art career —has prompted the museum to extend its holiday hours.
The museum will remain open for an additional two hours on Mondays, starting Dec. 26, and on Tuesdays, from Dec. 6 through the show's Jan. 22, 2012 end. The new hours will be 10 a.m. through 7:45 p.m. those days.
"Whether or not he actually retires seems largely irrelevant — the announcement reminds me of a Rolling Stones Farewell Tour," Bessie Zhu, a Brooklyn-based arts writer said at a panel discussion at the Guggenheim on Thursday, according to Art Critical.
She said it was "a way for Cattelan to poke fun at the celebrity status artists like him enjoy," she said. "But it also points out the problem of being the art world’s token jokester — one never quite knows when to take him seriously."
Curator Nancy Spector told reporters at a press preview that the work was "deadly serious," calling Cattelan a "tragic poet of our time."
But several critics didn't take the bait.
"The Guggenheim’s show makes quite clear what Cattelan's previous theatrical installations have obscured: he doesn’t make art," Peter Schjeldahl wrote in the New Yorker. "He makes tendentious tchotchkes. Some of them enchant. In every case, Cattelan’s success depends on the just-so pitch of his good-bad taste."
"The effect is initially startling, but ultimately disrespectful and perverse," Roberta Smith wrote in the New York Times. " You can zip up and down the ramp seeing everything and nothing at top speed. Yet its entertaining conceit aside, the show suggests that Mr. Cattelan knows what he's about: he's always been uneven and now he is running out of ideas."
Other reviews have been more positive.
Jerry Saltz in New York Magazine said, "I expected a punch line by the art world’s favorite jokester, but left the Guggenheim in awe."
The Economist said: "When 'All' is seen from the top of the museum's rotunda, viewers are struck with vertigo. When regarded from below, they imagine being crushed. The show, intended as a single meta-work, is admirably visceral."
The exhibition has no interpretive texts lining the walls. Instead, the Guggenheim has launched its first ever App, which has more than 30 videos with artists, critics, curators and engineers. It also has commentary from Cattelan himself.
There's an exhibition catalogue, which is in its second printing and is already the second most popular catalogue in the museum's history, after "The Art of the Motorcycle" in 1998, a Guggenheim spokeswoman said.
To accomodate the interest in the show, Guggenheim is also hosting special holiday hours on Christmas Eve (10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.), New Year's Eve (10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.) and New Year's Day (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).