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Victory Is Not An Option

A review of the exhibition ‘Victory is Not an Option’ that is being held from September 12 to October 27, 2019 at the Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England.

Installation view, Him, 2001, Victory is Not an Option, Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace, 2019. Photograph by Tom Lindboe. Image Courtesy of the Artists and Blenheim Art Foundation.

‘Dear thieves, please, if you are reading this, let me know how much you like the piece and how it feels to pee on gold.’ That was Maurizio Cattelan’s amusing message to the ‘bathroom bandits’ who actually stole his golden toilet installation titled, erm, America. This 18-carat gold toilet, first installed in New York's Guggenheim Museum in 2016, travelled to the UK as part of Victory is Not an Option at the Blenheim Palace – a visually, metaphorically and politically explosive exhibition. Just a few days after it went on view to the public, the toilet went missing.

Installation view, America, 2016, Victory is Not an Option, Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace, 2019. Photograph by Tom Lindboe. Image Courtesy of the Artists and Blenheim Art Foundation.

As much as Duchamp’s Fountain was a critique on the way the audience perceived art, Maurizio Cattelan gives a scorching review of society through his golden ‘loo’. By the way, it is fully functional – the work was to be used by anyone, under strict supervision of course.

Installation view, Victory is Not an Option, 2019, Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace, 2019. Photograph by Tom Lindboe. Image Courtesy of the Artists and Blenheim Art Foundation.

Moving to the installation covering the walkways to the palace, the ‘Union Jack’ flag – one of the most divisive symbols of the United Kingdom – covers the length and breadth of it. Inescapable and symbolically suggestive, the work evokes many strong emotions but also makes peace with the fact that it is meant to do exactly that. Novecento is a bizarre image of a taxidermied horse hanging from the ceiling on a harness. Stranger still is that it used to be a racehorse named Tiramisu, whose legs were elongated purposefully to create the impression of a fatigued animal. Associating the stuffed horse to a character, Maurizio equates his creatures to a fantastical reimagining as opposed to morbid intent. 

Installation view, Him, 2001, Victory is Not an Option, Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace, 2019. Photograph by Tom Lindboe. Image Courtesy of the Artists and Blenheim Art Foundation.

All the works are satirical and provocative, providing much-needed commentary in these turbulent times. Edward Spencer-Churchill, Founder of Blenheim Art Foundation said, ‘It is an incredible honour to welcome Maurizio to Blenheim. His bombastic humour and satirical art delights and shocks in equal measure. The master has lost none of his trademark wit and extraordinary commentary with this stunning show.’

Ps: The golden toilet is yet to be recovered.

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