February 12, 2014  |  Artists, Behind the Scenes, MoMA Stores
Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari Bring Toiletpaper to the Table
Caption TK

A scene from MoMA Design Store’s spring catalog cover shoot featuring Seletti Wears Toiletpaper, a suite of dishes, mugs, and tablecloths created by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari for Seletti

This season the MoMA Design Store is pleased to announce the launch of an exclusive new series of artist-produced wares. To celebrate these artistic collaborations we’re going share with Inside/Out readers a behind-the-scenes look at the process of designing these exciting products, and background about the artists involved. First up is the Seletti Wears Toiletpaper suite—dishes, mugs, and tablecloths adorned with visual puns, punchy metaphors, and avant-garde imagery—from Italian art provocateur Maurizio Cattelan and fashion photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari.

The Museum of Modern Art has long supported Cattelan, a celebrated artist who is renowned for facetious sculptures and installations that poke fun at popular culture, history, and religion in a manner that is at once irreverent and bitingly critical. MoMA has many of Cattelan’s best-known pieces in its collection, and in 1998 his work was featured in the ongoing Elaine Dannheisser Projects series, which focuses on new art by rising talents. For the exhibition Cattelan presented an interpretation of Pablo Picasso and the impact his likeness has on the public. Known for his pranks, Cattelan traumatized museumgoers by hiring an actor to don an oversized Picasso mask and walk silently around the Museum, rattling coins in a paper cup as if begging for alms. The stunt, like much of Cattelan’s work, hovered between homage, critique, and a joke at the expense of grim-faced art critics.

The genesis of the Seletti Wears Toiletpaper suite came from Toiletpaper, the glossy publication founded in 2010 by Cattelan in collaboration with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari. Toiletpaper contains no text, but combines slick photography with twisted narrative tableaux to create an explosively original journal that perfectly encapsulates Cattelan’s aberrant oeuvre.

A selection of Toiletpaper covers

A selection of Toiletpaper covers

In an interview with Vogue Italia, Ferrari explained, “The magazine [is derived] from a passion/obsession that Maurizio and I have in common. Each picture springs from an idea, even a simple one, and then becomes a complex orchestration of people who build tableaux vivants. This project is also a sort of mental outburst.”

The idea to bring the aesthetic of Toiletpaper to the table came from Stefano Seletti, art director of the Italian design firm founded by his family in 1964. Seletti, who has been a fan of Toiletpaper and its artful images since its debut, propositioned Cattelan and Ferrari to transform the imagery found in their magazine into a line of radical tableware.

Caption TK. Photo: Scott Rudd

The MoMA Design Store windows featuring the Seletti Wears Toiletpaper suite. Photo: Scott Rudd

The idea dovetailed perfectly with the artists’ plan for the photographs contained in the magazine. “We think Toiletpaper is a brand that is applicable to different objects: magazines, books, plates, mugs, and tablecloths,” says Cattelan. “Pierpaolo and I are like sadistic scientists: everything around us can be infected by the ‘TP’ virus.”

Following the success of the line’s worldwide premiere at Salone del Mobile in Milan and the subsequent presentation at Maison&Objet in Paris, the complete Seletti Wears Toiletpaper suite was recently launched stateside by the MoMA Design Store.

Caption TK. Photo: Scott Rudd

Enameled tin plates and mugs from the Seletti Wears Toiletpaper suite. Photo: Scott Rudd

Brazen and delightfully peculiar, the suite features flashy images that straddle the line between the beautiful and the grotesque. (Watch the promotional video on the product page to see just what we mean.) Matching mugs and plates in enameled tin recall the wares found in a 1950s cupboard and display a range of images from ridiculous to raunchy, including a toilet plunger, cut “ladyfingers,” bitten soap, a bird getting its wings clipped, and a gristly interpretation of the phrase ”I love you.” The trio of tablecloths feature gut-turning vignettes interspersed with some of Cattelan’s best-known motifs, from frog sandwiches and a fish filleted to reveal a bounty of gemstones to a picnic besieged by overgrown insects.

Just as the artists’ work is most certainly an acquired taste, the Seletti Wears Toiletpaper line will undoubtedly flavor the conversation around your table, ensuring that your next meal is anything but bland.