On opening night of the Maurizio Cattelan retrospective at the Guggenheim (read Peter Schjeldahl’s review of the show), a Hummer stretch limo with the words “TOILET PAPER” printed on the side was not-so-discreetly parked outside the museum. The insignia referred to Toilet Paper magazine, a bi-annual, picture-based publication co-created by Cattelan and the photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari.
The project began when the two collaborated on a shoot for W magazine’s 2009 Art Issue. “We had so much fun, we said, why don’t we do more of this?,” Cattelan told me. “We then did a shoot for TAR, and then had a baby: Toilet Paper.” It’s not Cattelan’s first periodical. “Other magazines I’ve done, like Permanent Food, were really more radical,” he said. “We would do an issue in twenty-four hours. We’d start by going to the newsstand and buying anything that caught our eye. We would rip out pages, re-edit them, and send it off to the printer.”
In Toilet Paper, the images might appear to have been appropriated from world’s most surreal stock-photograph service, but they’re all made from scratch. “Every issue starts with a theme, always something basic and general, like love or greed,” Cattelan explained. “Then, as we start, we move like a painter on a canvas, layering and building up the issue. We always find ourselves in a place we didn’t expect to be. The best images are the result of improvisation.” Many images are rejected, he said, because they’re “not Toilet Paper enough.” What makes a Toilet Paper photo? “We keep homing in on what a Toilet Paper image is. Like distilling a perfume. It’s not about one particular style or time frame; what makes them Toilet Paper is a special twist. An uncanny ambiguity.”
Here’s a selection from four different issues of the magazine.