Michelangelo Pistoletto: a prolific and influential figure in contemporary art
Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the most prolific and influential contemporary Italian artists, was born in 1933 in Biella, Italy. His father was also an artist and Pistoletto learnt from him, working by his side from the age of 14. At 18 years old, he enrolled in Armando Testa’s advertising school. Both of these educative experiences were fundamental in educating Pistoletto in Art History, drawing, colour and painting.
He started exhibiting his work in 1955. In 1960, he had his first solo show at the Galleria Galatea in Turin. A study into the self-portrait exemplifies his works from the beginning of his career. They often had a monotone background with a figure as the main subject. In 1960-61, the background of these portraits were covered with grounds of metallic paint before he eventually replaced the canvas with polished steel. This would then go on to develop into the Mirror Paintings which he began making in 1961 – 1962. These works were revolutionary for their ability to open up perspective, directly placing the viewer and their surroundings into the work. These Mirror Paintings became the establishing force of Pistoletto’s artistic production as well as his academic theory and thought.
In 1965 and 1966 the works, “Minus Objects”, were classed as essential to the beginnings of Arte Povera, a world-famous art movement of which Pistoletto was a leading purveyor. In the late 1960s, he became known for working outside customary exhibition spaces, inviting other artists from different disciplines to join in. In the 1970s, a cycle of twelve consecutive exhibitions, “Le Stanze”, at the Stein Gallery in Turn took place and in 1978, in a show in Turin, Pistoletto outlined two key directions of his forthcoming works; Division and Multiplication of the Mirror and Art Takes On Religion. Throughout the rest of the twentieth century, Pistoletto continued to experiment. He experimented with sculpture, the mirror, theatre and performance, while collaterally exploring and developing the theoretics that such bodies of works inspired in him.
In the 1990s, the Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto was founded in Biella, Italy. “Third Paradise” was announced in 2004 as a new phase to his work and ten years later, in 2014, the symbol of the Third Paradise was installed in the headquarters of the European Union Council in Brussels. The Cittadellarte foundation and the global network of embassies, forums and partners give form to the Third Paradise by inciting widespread and noticeable social change.
His work has been included in major international exhibitions including Documenta 4, 7, 9, and 11 in Kassel (1968, 1982, 1992, and 1997) and the Venice Biennale (1966, 1976, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1993, 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2017). As well as exhibiting in some of the most important museums in the world like Louvre (Paris), MoMA (New York) and Tate (London), amongst many others. In 2016, he had his first solo show in Cuba. In 2018, he toured South America bringing two major exhibitions in Lima and Santiago de Chile. In 2019, Bienal Sur hosted “Circuito Pistoletto”, a section of the Biennial dedicated to the artist. In 2020, he unveiled some new Mirror Paintings, conceived just before the international pandemic, that he then went on to exhibit at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano until 2021.