'Victory is Not an Option' - Maurizio Cattelan

This is my review on the Maurizio Cattelan expedition, 'Victory is Not an Option', that was in Blenheim Palace between September 12 and October 27. The expedition mainly included sculptures and taxidermy.

On October 7th, 2019, I attended Blenheim Palace where the expedition 'Victory is Not an Option' by Maurizio Cattelan was held. Cattelan was born in Pauda Italy, 1960 then moved to the USA to work. He is known for his hyper-realistic sculptures and installations. One of his most recent art works is the 'Comedian' which is quite simply a fresh banana stuck to a white wall with a piece of duck tape! Unfortunately, this installation wasn't there, but there where many other questionable and strange pieces to entertain you.

The first two pieces are located in the 'Great Court' and the 'Great Hall. The first, on the courtyard, is called 'Victory is Not an Option' and it's a big walkway of Union Jacks placed in a large cross on the floor. As you then entered the hall, the piece 'We'll Never Die' takes centre stage. It's described as a 'monumental copy of the fag-bearing arm of Emmanuel Frémiet’s 1874 sculpture of Joan of Arc in Paris'. It is, quite literally a giant floating arm holding an even bigger flag! They are both very bold and prominent. These where my favourite as they where quite simple to understand and easy to look at.

Next on this confusing list are three horse skulls wearing gold armour called 'Glory Glory Hallelujah'. As you walk past and to the Green Drawing Room, you'll find 'Lessico Familiare' which translates to 'Family Syntax'. This particular piece is considered to be Cattelans 'first piece'. It's a small image of him making a 'hand heart' over his chest. Also in the Green Drawing Room is an untitled piece, an unusual self-portrait of him hanged 'like a discarded coat'. Although the 'Lessico Familiare' is a little more normal, 'Glory Glory Hallelujah' and 'Untitled, 2000' where strange to say the least.

Moving on to the Red Drawing Room, you would see a giant taxidermy horse called 'Novecento' hanging from the ceiling. The title translates from Italian to nine hundred, a term for the 20th century and the name for Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1976 film tracing the rise of Italian fascism. It's said to represent 'a country exhausted by a century of upheaval and violence'. As you have most likely guessed, this is where it starts to get bizarre!

Next is another untitled piece in the First Stateroom which is an upside down black boot. The boot represents the uniforms promoted by both Italian Fascist leader Mussolini and Hitler. Controversial themes are a trend in his work, as is to see. In the Saloon is a double self-portrait called 'We'. It's two of him lying in a small bed in funeral wear, 'as if inviting visitors to attend his funeral wake'. 

Now, we come to see one of his more well known pieces from 1999 called 'La Nona Ora' in the Second State Room. To reference that even the holiest man in the world isn't safe from misfortune, Cattelan drops a meteor on Pope John Paul II! In the Third State Room is another taxidermy piece of a crocodile hanging from the ceiling. 'Ego' is based of the earliest piece of known taxidermy - which is a crocodile hung of the ceiling of a small church in Ponte Nossa, Italy. This serves as a counterpoint to the horse. 

Two pieces are in the Long Library, which is an untitled piece and another well known piece titled 'Him'. The untitled piece is an animatronic sculpture based on a character from Günter Grass’s 1959 novel 'The Tin Drum'. It's a little boy sat on the corner of the balcony with a drum which is played (to a pounding rhythm he used in the book to disturb a Nazi Rally) every now and then. Then 'Him' is Adolf Hitler 'looking skywards as if seeking forgiveness.

The pieces 'Others' and 'Oliver and Tom' are placed in the chapel outside. As you walk through the door your instantly seeing 200 taxidermy pigeons scattered everywhere - which is a little concerning! 'Oliver and Tom' are two sculptures of tramps in the chapel pews. They are meant to highlight inequalities in our society. Then, in the Water Terraces, is a large model of Pinocchio face down drowning! The piece named 'Daddy Daddy' is referencing to when Pinocchio rescues his father and Jiminy Cricket from a whale, but drowns in the process! In the Stables Arch is another untitled piece which is a miniature replica of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome.

In a secret location, is a piece called 'Mini-Me', a toy-like sculpture of Cattelan. Lastly, is a well known - although an odd reason - called America. Ironically, this 18 karat solid-gold toilet placed in Churcill's Birth Room was stolen upon the opening week-end (before my visit). Although I was robbed of seeing the piece in person, I enjoyed the concept!

To conclude, my visit to Blenheim was very unique and enjoyable. It's not everyday you the the Pope crushed by a meteor, especially at an UNESCO World Heritage Site! As previously not knowing of Cattelan and his work, the expedition has opened a door to his controversial and humorous works of art! It was, overall, an amazing once in a lifetime experience - one to never forget!


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Elan Williams

Elan Williams

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