In Depth

Michelangelo Pistoletto heads to Blenheim Palace

Step back in time to explore the work of one of the most revered – and rebellious – visual artists around today

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Blenheim Palace's stately rooms lay claim to some of the finest examples of 18th-century interiors, but step inside today and you will find artwork of an altogether more surprising variety. Until the end of the year, the Oxfordshire country house will host a collection of works by Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the leading revolutionaries in contemporary Italian art.

Michelangelo Pistoletto at Blenheim Palace showcases works from his 50-plus-year career, in addition to new sculptures specially commissioned for the stately home and integrated into its historic surrounds.

Pistoletto was a leading proponent of Arte Povera – Poor Art – a radical Italian art movement spanning the 1960s and 70s. Adherents eschewed traditional materials in favour of the unconventional, aiming to disrupt the commercialised art world by using mediums such as soil and rags, which would otherwise be discarded. Here, the items on display continue to question the definition of high art. Among the examples is one of Pistoletto's best-known works, Venus of the Rags, which places the classical Roman goddess against the backdrop of a pile of discarded cloth.

Another key work includes the artist's signature quadri specchianti – mirror paintings. Photo-silkscreened images of people are attached to a background made of highly polished steel, creating a reflective surface that brings the viewer into the piece.

Given Pistoletto's exploration of rich and poor, grandeur and simplicity, it's hard to imagine a more fitting environment for this diverse showcase of his work.

Michelangelo Pistoletto at Blenheim Palace runs until 31 December; blenheimpalace.com

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