Private View: Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace

The painter shares her artistic response to a Britain in turmoil

British painter Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace - YouTube

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Acclaimed British artist Cecily Brown is the first person to hold a major solo exhibition composed entirely of new work created in response to Blenheim Palace. Brown graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in the UK before moving to New York in 1994 and has since been credited as a central figure in the resurgence of painting at the turn of the millennium.

Brown offers both a sentimental celebration and a poignant critique of the romantic fantasies surrounding the stately home and British heritage. For the exhibition, she subtly infiltrated the Palace’s world-renowned permanent collection of paintings, tapestries, and decorative arts and replaced them with versions of her own.

Hunt After Frans Snyders (2019) is her reinterpretation of the Flemish painter’s 17th-century original, showing a pack of dogs bearing down on a wild boar. What visitors experience when they see these two works side by side is a cognitive parallax as Brown’s paintings provide a distorted version of the world around them. In essence, the exhibition is a discursive effort encouraging people to reevaluate Britain’s relationship with the outside world.

“‘I took this show as an opportunity to respond to Blenheim Palace and to react to England,” says Brown. “Despite being “in exile” in America for 26 years, I love England; a tiny island that is still culturally huge. However, this is a moment of turmoil, for Britain as for the rest of the world.”

Brown’s other works include There’ll always be an England (2019) and Battles Were Meant To Be Painted (2019). These colorful site-specific works are rich with abstract human forms and flush with restless energy. “It was compelling to play within the walls of a place like Blenheim, which gives the perspective of passing time,” says Brown. “You go through bad patches, but hopefully come out the other side.”

The exhibition ran from 17 September 2020 – 7 February 2021 at Blenheim PalaceMarch 26, 2021

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