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See New Work from the Italian Master Who Turns Rags into Art

A member of the ‘Art Povera’ movement, Michelangelo Pistoletto showcases his lighthearted works at Blenheim Palace.
August 20, 2016, 11:45am
Venus of the Rags, 1967. Photo by A. Lacirasella. All images courtesy Blenheim Art Foundation

A sprawling English palace that once housed dukes and duchesses finds its unlikely partner in the alternative works of an Italian master. Artistic legend, Michelangelo Pistoletto, places the disconcerting image of his Surrealist paintings and installations alongside the majesty of a storied countryside structure.

Pistoletto played a special part in pioneering the disruptive Italian art movement, Arte Povera. Pistoletto began his work as a sculptor, first working in hard-edged polyurethane and then transferring it into marble form. Later on, his exhibits evolved in mediums, often choosing to create paintings.


A notable subset of Pistoletto’s work includes over two dozen Mirror Paintings, a series he began in 1961. From its conception, the painting series was coded with Pistoletto’s boundary-breaking, Surrealist style. Combining his mastery of painting with a new-found interest in photography and screen-printing, Pistoletto selected various photos—mostly of people—to overlay on mirrors. Each “mirror” is a stainless steel surface with a mirrored finish. Most notable is his piece, Man with Yellow Pants. Pistoletto still creates original Mirror Paintings to this day.

Another eye-catching addition to the show is the heaping disarray of Venus of the Rags. The sculpture-turned-alternative-installation is an ode to classic Greek artistry married alongside an unseemly pile of wrinkled rags. Venus, with her backside to the viewer, is dwarfed by the peculiar mass of cloth, thus subverting a traditionally piece of "high art" to the standards of "low art." The artist commented on the use of mediums in 1967 to Flood and Morris, as noted by the Tate, "As far as I am concerned …all forms, materials, ideas, and means are available and to be used." A fun fact: Some of the rags used in Venus were used by Pistoletto to clean his Mirror Paintings.

Pistoletto speaks about his self-titled solo show, in a Blenheim release, “I am… pleased to be presenting a comprehensive show of my work within the unique setting… a place brimming with history, tradition, and craft. I look forward to seeing my art in an entirely new context, expanding its meaning and visitors’ experience of it.”


Mappamondo (Globe), 1966 – 1968

Monumentino (Small Monument), 1968-86. Photo by J.E.S.

 Accarezzare gli alberi (Strocking the Trees), 2005 - 2010. Photo by C. Abate

Love Difference - Mediterranean Sea, 2003-2005. Photo by P. Terzi

Persona di schiena (Person Seen from the Back), 1962. Photo by P. Pellion

Autoritratto, 1994. Photo by J.E.S.

The artist, Michelangelo Pistoletto, before Blenheim Palace

Michelangelo Pistoletto at Blenheim Palace is a solo exhibition showing from September 15 – December 31, 2016, including many new and old artwork inside the breath-taking space of Blenheim Palace. Previous exhibits which showed at Blenheim Palace include 2014’s Ai Wei Wei at Blenheim Palace and 2015’s Lawrence Weiner: Within a Realm of Distance.

Find more about the upcoming exhibit, among other events inside the English property, on the Blenheim Palace website, here.


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