VICTORY IS NOT AN OPTION – MAURIZIO CATTELAN AT BLENHEIM PALACE
September 12 – October 27 , 2019
Blenheim Art Foundation is delighted to present Victory is Not an Option, a solo exhibition by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, running 12 September – 27 October 2019.
Cattelan‘s most significant display in the UK for twenty years, Victory is Not an Option responds to the martial and political history of the Palace, exploring timely themes of national identity, power and personality. The exhibition brings together some of the most influential artworks from Cattelan’s celebrated thirty-year career, many shown in the UK for the first time. It also debuts several new pieces made especially for Blenheim Palace including the titular installation Victory is Not an Option which opens the exhibition, a site-specific walkway of Union Jack flags leading to the Palace entrance.
The exhibition sees Cattelan weave his distinctive wit into a fearless exposé of systems of power and authority, beginning with the striking flag installation which asks visitors to consider national symbols and the different emotions they evoke.
These ideas continue in the Great Hall, which hosts new monumental sculpture We’ll Never Die, a twelve metre replica of the flag-bearing arm of Emmanuel Frémiet’s 1874 Joan of Arc statue in Paris; a monument to the patriotic heroine which in recent years has become a gathering place for the French right – wing.
Novecento and a new version of Untitled – Cattelan‘s profile encased in a gold boot – serve as allegorical reminders of Italy’s turbulent twentieth-century history. Ego, a new suspended taxidermy work, offsets the horse Novecento a few State Rooms down. Towards the end of the exhibition, Him – Cattelan’s impactful sculpture of a kneeling Hitler – acts as a stark warning of one man’s ability to change the course of history and a call to caution for the future.
Concepts of power and personality are also more playfully examined throughout the exhibition: a number of Cattelan’s signature tragicomic self-portraits such as Lessico Familiare, We and Mini-Me cheekily face-off with the official ducal portraits decorating the stately home.
America, Cattelan‘s solid gold, functioning lavatory also speaks to the historic constructs of status and influence that underlie institutions like Blenheim Palace, while wryly highlighting the commonality of basic human needs regardless of economic and social difference. Installed near Churchill’s birth room, America is available for visitors to use during their visit.
The exhibition, staged throughout the baroque interiors, continues outdoors where visitors can discover canonical large-scale works such as Daddy, Daddy – a new, monumental version of Cattelan’s buoyant Pinocchio first shown at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2008 – as well as his more recent Untitled, a walk-in, fully-frescoed Sistine Chapel shown for the first time in Europe.
Cattelan’s Victory is Not an Option is the sixth contemporary art exhibition hosted by Blenheim Art Foundation at the UNESCO World-Heritage-listed Palace. This continues the Foundation’s invitation to artists to respond directly to Blenheim Palace, from this year’s interrogation of power and authority to Yves Klein on beauty and Jenny Holzer on the experience of war.