Blenheim Art Foundation opens exhibition of new work by Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace
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Blenheim Art Foundation opens exhibition of new work by Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace
Cecily Brown, Hunt with Nature Morte and Blenheim Spaniel, 2019. Installation view of ‘Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace’, Blenheim Palace, 2020. Photo: Tom Lindboe. Courtesy of Blenheim Art Foundation.

WOODSTOCK.- Blenheim Art Foundation unveiled a major solo exhibition by acclaimed British artist Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace, running from 17 September 2020 to 3 January 2021. This is the first exhibition in the Foundation’s programme to be comprised entirely of new work created in response to the Palace, and the first devoted to contemporary painting.

This exhibition marks a new area of investigation for Brown, one of the foremost painters of her generation who is best known for her semi-abstract, sensuous depictions of the body. Showcasing over thirty never-seen-before site-specific artworks, Brown offers both a sentimental celebration and a poignant critique of the romantic fantasies surrounding the stately home and British heritage in the popular imagination.

Drawing on traditional painting genres often found in country houses and responding directly to the Spencer-Churchill family’s own collection of artworks, textiles and artefacts, Brown offers charged reinterpretations of the powerful imagery and narratives that still inform perceptions of England today. The exhibition includes a series dedicated to the hunt, Brown’s distinctive strokes depicting animals in tussle in the British woodlands, and a number of battle paintings that evoke Blenheim’s military history and call attention to the martial motifs throughout the Palace interiors and architecture. Inspired by the magnificent woven Marlborough tapestries that line the State Rooms and the heraldic imagery from the 1st Duke of Marlborough’s armorial banner, the exhibition notably features Brown’s first ever textile work, a woven rug with a design originating from one of her new Armorial Memento paintings, also on display.

An artist known for referencing the rich history of European and American art, Brown’s site-specific research is at the forefront of the exhibition. On entrance to the Great Hall, visitors can explore a vitrine containing the source material for the new works, which – alongside a number of sketches, drawings and watercolours – offer a rare insight into the artist’s intimate creative process. Alongside her examination of Blenheim and its history, Brown, a New Yorker for the past twenty-five years, also explores her own relationship to England. In addition to imagery from the Palace, Brown’s vitrine contains nostalgic snapshots of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, illustrated fairy stories and the battle scenes of Barry Lyndon; fragments from the 1970s landscape of her early childhood.

The exhibition closes with Brown’s largest painting to-date, titled The Triumph of Death, painted in four parts that were assembled for the first time onsite at Blenheim Palace. Triumph, a monumental meeting of the motifs from the show, converses with Britain past and present, imagined and remembered; a psychedelic vision of a country made up of many different memories. Completed in 2019, the work offers a poignant and prescient visualisation of a society in crisis.

Cecily Brown said ‘I took this show as an opportunity to respond to Blenheim Palace and to react to England past and present. Despite being “in exile” in America for 26 years, I love England; a tiny island that is still culturally huge. This is a moment of turmoil, for Britain as for the rest of the world. It was compelling to play within the walls of a place like Blenheim, which gives the perspective of passing time: you go through bad patches, but hopefully come out the other side.’

Cecily Brown was born in London in 1969 and studied at the Slade School of Art before moving to New York in 1994. She has been credited as a central figure in the resurgence of painting at the turn of the millennium. Her work is included in the public collections of The British Museum, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; MFA, Boston; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate Gallery, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Selected solo exhibitions include Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2002); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2004); Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (2005); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2006–07); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2009); Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover (2010); The Drawing Center, New York (2016); The Whitworth, Manchester (2017-18); Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo (2018) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2018-19).The artist has also had numerous solo gallery exhibitions worldwide including at Paula Cooper Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, Thomas Dane Gallery, CFA and others. Brown lives and works in New York.

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