Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the founders of arte povera who made a name creating art out of cheap everyday materials, will have an exhibition in the opulent setting of Blenheim Palace in September. The 82-year-old Italian is the third contemporary artist to be given a show at the palace, seat of the dukes of Marlborough and one of Europe’s great secular buildings.
The English Baroque style of architecture may not be altogether at odds with Pistoletto: he grew up surrounded by Renaissance and Baroque art, and as a young adult assisted his father in his picture restoring business.
The exhibition, titled Michelangelo Pistoletto at Blenheim Palace (15 September-31 December), will feature more than 40 works created over the past 50 years and is billed as the artist’s most comprehensive in the UK to date. His last show in the country was at the Serpentine Gallery in 2011. The Blenheim exhibition will play on the contrast between high art and base materials with works such as Venus of the Rags (1967), which combines a classical-style sculpture of the Roman goddess of love with a pile of discarded clothes.
A number of Pistoletto’s mirror paintings, first conceived in the 1960s, will be installed among the other portraits that populate the palace. “Everything in my work has come from the mirror, and the idea that it reflects society and reality,” the artist told the Guardian in 2014.
Michael Frahm, the director of the Blenheim Art Foundation, remains tight-lipped about the new works Pistoletto is creating for the exhibition, but reveals they will be installed both inside and dotted around the grounds of the palace.
The artist will also continue his Third Paradise project, conceived in 2003 as a “passage to a new level of planetary civilization, essential to ensure the human race's survival”, according to the artist’s manifesto. It remains to be seen how the project will manifest itself at Blenheim Palace, but Frahm says it will be an “interactive piece” that “involves the local community”.
Pistoletto's show follows that of Ai Weiwei in 2014 and Lawrence Weiner in 2015.