For its sixth exhibition, Blenheim Art Foundation hosted a solo exhibition by Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace. Cattelan’s most significant display in the UK for twenty years, ‘Victory is Not an Option’ responded to the martial and political history of the Palace, exploring timely themes of national identity, power and personality. The exhibition brought together some of the most influential artworks from Cattelan’s celebrated thirty-year career, many shown in the UK for the first time. The exhibition also presented new pieces such as the titular installation ‘Victory is Not an Option’, a site-specific walkway of Union Jack flags and ‘We’ll Never Die’: a twelve metre replica of the flag-bearing arm of Emmanuel Frémiet’s 1874 Joan of Arc statue in Paris and a monument to the patriotic heroine which in recent years has become a gathering place for the French right-wing. The suspended horse ‘Novecento’ and a new version of ‘Untitled’ – Cattelan’s profile encased in a gold boot – served as allegorical reminders of Italy’s turbulent twentieth-century history.
The exhibition, staged throughout the baroque interiors, continued outdoors where visitors discovered a new, monumental version of Cattelan’s buoyant Pinocchio ‘Daddy, Daddy’, as well as his more recent ‘Untitled’, a walk-in 1:6 replica of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, entirely painted with copies of Michelangelo’s original frescoes. ‘America’, Cattelan’s fully-functioning, solid 18-karat gold lavatory also addressed the historic constructs of status, wealth and power that underlie institutions like Blenheim Palace. Originally visited by over 100,000 people at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, this was the iconic artwork’s first exhibition in Europe.