Victory is Not an Option is an exhibition of contemporary art by Maurizio Cattelan, organised by Blenheim Art Foundation.

Maurizio Cattelan (born 21 September 1960, Padua Italy) is an Italian conceptual artist known for sculptures and installations that address the darker and more difficult parts of history and society with a dry distinctive wit.

With his work, Cattelan seeks to turn a mirror back on us to examine our reactions when confronted with uncomfortable topics and invites us to have conversations about the past, the present and the future.

He once said to this effect that 'Reality is far more provocative than my art".

"Victory is Not an Option brought together some of the artist's seminal pieces - many of them were shown in the UK for the first time."

THE EXHIBITION

Great Court "Victory is not an option"

Williams & Hill supported in the installation of this piece which was particularly fragile and so required us to be extremely careful and steady.

The piece is a great walkway of British Union Jack flags. The piece lead up to Blenheim Palace, welcoming you on arrival. With the site-specific work, Cattelan questions the meanings we attribute to flags and nationality, their power to inspire both love and hatred, to evoke feelings of belonging and difference.

A map of the UK showing the locations that Dippy will visit on his travels
Great Hall "We'll Never Die" sculpture
Great Hall "We'll Never Die", 2019
The team were involved with the task of un-crating each section of this work outside in the Great Court and the carrying each section within the building very carefully using eight of our technicians.

Each section was not overly heavy but particularly fragile.
Image of 'we'll Never Die' sculpture, a copy of the flag bearing arm of Joan of Arc in Paris.
We'll Never Die is a monumental copy of the flag bearing arm of Emmanuel Frémiet's 1874 sculpture of Joan of Arc in Paris.

It references the ideas of pride and identity, but also suggests the violence that flags can engender. Flags, after all, find their origin in war, and Joan's battle standard mirrors the many military flags and banners that decorate the Palace.

Green Drawing room "Untitled", 2000

This sculpture was carefully un-packed and hung on chains from the existing picture rails that are used for all of Blenheim Palace’s works of art.

This piece is an unusual self-portrait – not in a frame but dangling by the back of his top. The cartoon likeness of the artist – his features exaggerated and expression stony – is hung up like a discarded coat. Here again Cattelan turns traditional self-portraiture on its head by making himself the butt of the joke.

An image showing the Cattelan sculpture "Untitled" hanging from chains in the Green Drawing room at Blenheim Palace

Red Drawing room "Novecento", 1997

Our technicians were tasked with carefully un-packing and hand carry this piece through the Palace. Once inside the Red Drawing Room, we attached the work to our Genie lift and to raise the piece to the chandelier fixing where it was crimped into place and the wires were hidden behind the hemp rope.

Cattelan has used taxidermy since the 1990s to explore the emotional relationships and cultural associations between humans and animals. The taxidermy horse is one of the artists most iconic works.

An image showing the Cattelan installation "Novecento" a taxidermy horse, hanging from the ceiling in the Red Drawing room at Blenheim Palace
Image of pigeon, part of Cattelan's 'Others' sculpture featuring 200 pigeons
Chapel "Others", 2011
Our fully trained IPAF technicians worked closely with Maurizio Cattelan's studio for this installation.

We had to use a spider crane to enable each pigeon to be carefully lifted and placed into position. Carefully curated by Cattelan's studio team, the 200 pigeons took in total four days to install.
Image of pigeon, part of Cattelan's 'Others' sculpture featuring 200 pigeons
As you entered the Chapel, you could feel the gaze of hundreds of eyes upon you.

Cattelan’s 200 taxidermy birds took over every nook and cranny, appearing to put visitors under surveillance.
Image of pigeon, part of Cattelan's 'Others' sculpture featuring 200 pigeons
The work was first exhibited under the name Turisti (Tourists) at the Venice Biennale in 1997. Cattelan was comparing tourists to flocks of common birds that gather in public spaces.
Image of pigeon, part of Cattelan's 'Others' sculpture featuring 200 pigeons
Shown at Blenheim Palace, -also a popular tourist destination - the work gently poked fun at the nature of being a visitor, turning the attention back on to us.

Second State room "La Nona Ora", 1999

This sculpture was attentively un-packed and placed within the Second State Room.

Cattelan brazenly drops a meteor on a likeness of Pope John Paul ll. It seems to suggest that even the holiest man in the Roman Catholic tradition may not be safe from misfortune.

An image showing the Cattelan sculpture "La Nona Ora" in the Second State room at Blenheim Palace

Stables Arch (Great Court) “Untitled”, 2018

This was a huge piece to move. Measuring 736 (L) x 291 (W) x 483 cms (H) and 103.45m3 whilst weighing in at approx. five tons, we had arranged for this to be transported on a flat bed truck with an escort vehicle in convoy to the Palace.

Once in the Great Court, using a 12ton forklift, the chapel was lifted and lowered to the ground and placed onto 20 ton machine skates.

It was a very tight fit in between the arches so we had to be extremely careful whilst pushing this piece into position.

 

An image showing Cattelan's "Stables Arch" in the Great Court at Blenheim Palace

This piece is Cattelan’s miniature replica of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome.

Complete with copies of Michaelangelo’s fifteenth-century ceiling frescoes and The Last Judgment behind a tiny altar.

Cattelan suggests that the act of coping can in fact be an act of creation, making something new of something that already exists.

Here, in the context of Cattelan’s exhibition, a pint-sized copy becomes a new original work.

 

 

An image showing Cattelan's "Stables Arch" in the Great Court at Blenheim Palace

"It's always an honour to work on the prestigious exhibitions at Blenheim Palace. It's such a wonderful venue for showcasing an artists work."

Image of Cattelan's 'Daddy, Daddy' installation. Sculpture of Pinocchio face down in the Water Terrace area
Water Terraces "Daddy, Daddy", 2008
This was our most complicated installation within this exhibition.

With no chance of using heavy lifting equipment in the Water Terrace area or avoiding damage to Blenheim Palaces’ pristine box hedges we had to really think outside the box for this installation. “Daddy, Daddy” weighs 600kgs and so manual handling was not an option.
Image of Cattelan's 'Daddy, Daddy' installation. Sculpture of Pinocchio face down in the Water Terrace area
To enable us to complete this installation the sculpture was lowered down into the Water Terrace area using a Hiab crane. We fabricated a runway through the hedge area very close to the water.

With the use of a gantry half in the water and half on dry land, the work was lifted from the ramp, pulled across the gantry beam and lowered down into the water.
Image of Cattelan's 'Daddy, Daddy' installation. Sculpture of Pinocchio face down in the Water Terrace area
Three of our technicians braved the cold water and in their waders were able to un-strap the sculpture and position it within the water.

Amongst his storybook characters and fallen leaders, Cattelan presented us with the beloved hero of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio who appears to have met an untimely demise in the Palace fountain.
Image of Cattelan's 'Daddy, Daddy' installation. Sculpture of Pinocchio face down in the Water Terrace area
The sculpture references the episode in which Pinocchio rescues both his father and Jiminy Cricket from a whale, but tragically drowns in the process.

The title, Daddy, Daddy seems to be his cry for help and protection that goes unanswered.

Long Library "Him", 2000

This sculpture was carefully un-packed by us and placed within the Long library.

As you walked down the Long Library you would have noticed what would have seemed to be a small schoolboy in prayer. As you got close to the eerie figure it is revealed to be Adolf Hitler, looking skywards as if seeking forgiveness.

Since Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the piece generated a poignant historical encounter between two wartime enemies who never in fact met face-to-face.

An image showing the Cattelan sculpture "Him" in the Long Library room at Blenheim Palace

Third State room “Ego”, 2019

Our technicians had to carefully un-pack and hand carry this work through the Palace.

Once inside the Third State Room, we attached the work to our Genie lift and lifted it up to the chandelier fixing where it was crimped in place and the wires hidden behind the hemp rope.

The oldest known piece of taxidermy is a crocodile which hung from the ceiling of a little church in Ponte Nossa, Italy, since the sixteenth century.

Scholars have suggested that crocodiles were likened to dragons.

As a county house, Blenheim Palace has a history of taxidermy, with generations of Dukes bringing back hunting trophies from their travels.

An image showing the Cattelan installation "Ego" a taxidermy crocodile, hanging from the ceiling in the Third Sate room at Blenheim Palace