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Michelangelo Pistoletto
at Blenheim Palace

15 September - 31 December 2016


The third exhibition at Blenheim Palace spanned Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s prolific fifty-year career, featuring painting, sculpture, and new, site-specific installations. The show introduced visitors to the themes underpinning his work across the decades. Pistoletto gave us a playful crash-course in Italian history, referencing the Renaissance and Fascism in turn. Classical Antiquity collided with post-war consumerism in his ‘Venus of the Rags’, in which the Classical goddess leans against a large pile of waste material in the Chapel. This work, an iconic piece from the Arte Povera period of 1960s-70s Italy, exemplifies Pistoletto’s anti-establishment use of cheap and unconventional materials to make high art.

Reflection and self-reflection were central ideas to the exhibition, which showcased a spectacular collection of over thirty of Pistoletto’s celebrated ‘Mirror Paintings’. The Palace itself played muse for a new work called ‘Mirragio’: a gold-painted car – inspired by the golden spheres perched atop of the building – submerged by the water of the Palace fountains.

As well as celebrating the breadth of Pistoletto’s materials and techniques, the show also introduced Pistoletto the political philosopher, with many of his lyrical, colourful works underpinned with strong pacifist messages and calls for unity, collaboration, and freedom. His striking ‘Mappamondo’, a globe made of burnished newspaper, was remade for Blenheim Palace using material from British journalism. The breathtaking ‘Third Paradise’ symbol, wrapped in Pistoletto’s signature rags, hovered above the Great Hall, calling for a more harmonious, united future.