The third exhibition at Blenheim Palace spans Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto’s prolific fifty-year career, featuring painting, sculpture, and new, site-specific installations. The show also introduces visitors to the themes underpinning his work across the decades. Pistoletto gives 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’, which sees the Classical goddess leaning 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 are central ideas to the exhibition, which showcases a spectacular collection of over thirty of Pistoletto’s celebrated ‘Mirror Paintings’. The Palace itself plays muse for a new work called ‘Mirragio’: a gold-painted car – inspired by the golden balls 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 introduces 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, is here remade for Blenheim Palace using material from British journalism. The breathtaking ‘Third Paradise’ symbol, wrapped in Pistoletto’s signature rags, hovers above the Great Hall, calling for a more harmonious, united future.