Softer: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace is the visually exciting and thought-provoking collaboration between American artist Jenny Holzer and the Blenheim Art Foundation.

Set within the sumptuous interiors of Blenheim Palace, the eighteenth Century seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Softer: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace features new site-specific work that directly addresses the Palace’s military and political history in relation to the themes which have figured prominently in Holzer’s practice since the 1980s: power, conflict and activism.

Plowden & Smith was delighted to be approached by the Blenheim Art Foundation to take on this challenging brief: designing supports that would make Holzer’s paintings (some measuring in excess of 2000cm x 1000cm) look as though they were leaning against Blenheim’s spectacular furniture and interiors without actually making contact with them.

In order to give the impression of heavy paintings propped up against eighteenth Century furniture and architecture, Plowden & Smith designed a series of strong, minimalist support frames that would not be visible to visitors. Each support was designed to show off the individual piece to its best advantage, whilst also protect the area immediately around the artwork, including antique furniture, fireplaces, floors, window shutters and window seat cushions. These precisely designed mounts safely positioned the artwork mere centimetres above and in front of the architectural or interior element the art work was supposed to be resting on. The mounts were fully adjustable so that the angle and tilt of the artwork could be easily altered, and once in position would be virtually invisible.

The final result is a bold, unapologetically nonchalant display of apparently unsupported artwork. A series of politically charged canvases leaning, sitting and resting amongst the grandeur and visual trappings of power that Blenheim Palace has become synonymous with.

It was a great pleasure to work in both such an historic setting and with such an iconic artist. Developing the designs for the paintings collection, to be rigid, secure and also having a minimalist visual impact was an enjoyable challenge. Ensuring the strict requirement of the Palace housekeeper was followed, whilst still allowing the display intent to be achieved.

Working with Jenny herself, the teams from her studio and the Blenheim Art Foundation team was a professional but fun experience. The exhibition that has been produced is one that, in its subtlety and impact, will bring visitors from around the world to see it.”

Kevin Smith

Managing Director, Plowden & Smith


all images ©2017 Jenny Holzer, Member Artists Rights Society (ARS), Photo: Edd Horder