Maurizio Cattelan for Arte Generali. (Image courtesy of Arte Generali.)

Artist Maurizio Cattelan has once more spun shit into gold, leveraging the upsetting theft of his work, “America” (2016) from a wood-paneled bathroom at Blenheim Palace. The functioning toilet was rendered in solid gold, available for use by visitors to a massive solo exhibition at the palace, Victory is Not an Option, and reportedly worth £4.8 million (~$5.96 million), though current reporting sets the value closer to £2.4 million (~$2.6 million). The crime remains unsolved, though more arrests have been made since the incident in September.

Meanwhile, art insurance company Arte Generali saw a solid gold opportunity to penetrate the Italian art market, and has announced their aims to become a top-three player in the next five years via a launch campaign conceived, designed, and photographed by Oliviero Toscani. It features artist Maurizio Cattelan clowning around in the buff with only oversized paper cutouts of his works — including the missing toilet — to protect him.

YouTube video

“Arte Generali’s brand campaign juxtaposes the risk run by art collectors of their art pieces being stolen with the metaphorical act of stealing that every artist commits,” Cattelan said, quoted in an Arte Generali press release. “My whole career has been based on the non-existence of originality — in other words, the ability to invent by adding to something that has been invented already, or the ability to elicit unexpected emotions by triggering emotions that one felt already before.” Cattelan, who looked to be having great fun in a behind-the-scenes video about the making of the campaign, can now add brand champion to his prodigious list of career moves.

Generali’s campaign emphasizes the innovation of artists, with the catchy tagline: “Art insures creativity. Generali insures art.” Whether art insures (or ensures, griped the grammarian) creativity, it can certainly be said that art in this realm ensures profits. Reporting by the New York Times suggests that Generali is targeting a sector forecasted to grow $2.3 billion in 2022, from $1.7 billion five years earlier. The global art value in the period is forecast to grow by 20% to $4.3 trillion. It seems this particular art theft has benefitted everyone, from thieves, to artist, to insurance giants alike. Perhaps the only losers in this equation are whoever was insuring “America” to begin with.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....