Born in Biella (Italy) in 1933.
Michelangelo Pistoletto began to exhibit his work in 1955 and in 1960 he had his first solo show at Galleria Galatea in Turin. An inquiry into self-portraiture characterizes his early work.
In the twoyear period 1961-1962 made the first Mirror Paintings, which directly include the viewer and real time in the work, and open up perspective, reversing the Renaissance perspective that had been closed by the twentieth century avantgardes. These works quickly brought Pistoletto international acclaim, leading, in the sixties, to one-man shows in important galleries and museums in Europe and the United States. The Mirror Paintings are the foundation of his subsequent artistic output and theoretical thought.
In 1965 and 1966 he produced a set of works entitled Minus Objects, considered fundamental to the birth of Arte Povera, an art movement of which Pistoletto was an animating force and a protagonist.
In 1967 he began to work outside traditional exhibition spaces, with the first instances of that “creative collaboration” he developed over the following decades by bringing together artists from different disciplines an diverse sectors of society. In 1975-76 he presented a cycle of twelve consecutive exhibitions, Le Stanze, at the Stein Gallery in Turin. This was the first of a series of complex, year-long works called “time continents”. Others are White Year (1989) and Happy Turtle (1992).
In 1978, in a show in Turin, Pistoletto defined two main directions his future artwork would take: Division and Multiplication of the Mirror and Art Takes On Religion.
In the early eighties he made a series of sculptures in rigid polyurethane, translated into marble for his solo show in 1984 at Forte di Belvedere in Florence. From 1985 to 1989 he created the series of “dark” volumes called Art of Squalor. During the nineties, with Progetto Arte and with the creation in Biella of Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto and the UNIDEE - University of Ideas, he brought art into active relation with diverse spheres of society with the aim of inspiring and producing responsible social change.
In 2003 he won the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifelong Achievement. In 2004 the University of Turin awarded him a laurea honoris causa in Political Science. On that occasion the artist announced what has become the most recent phase of his work, Third Paradise. In 2007, in Jerusalem, he received the Wolf Foundation Prize in the Arts, “for his constantly inventive career as an artist, educator and activist whose restless intelligence has created prescient forms of art that contribute to fresh understanding of the world.” In 2010 he wrote the essay The Third Paradise, published in Italian, English, French and German. In 2011 he was the artistic director of Evento 2011 – L'art pour une ré-évolution urbaine in Bordeaux.
In 2012 he started promoting the Rebirth-day, first worldwide day of rebirth, celebrated every year on 21st December with initiatives taking place all around the world. In 2013 the Louvre in Paris hosted his personal exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto, Année un – Le paradis sur terre. In this same year he received the Praemium Imperiale for painting, in Tokyo.
In 2014 the symbol of the Third Paradise was installed in the hall of the headquarters of the Council of the European Union in Bruxelles for the period of the Italian Presidency of the European Council. In May 2015 he received a degree honoris causa from the Universidad de las Artes of Havana in Cuba. In the same year he realizes Third Paradise in big dimensions, called Rebirth, situated in the park of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, headquarters of the UN.
In 2016 he exhibited his works in Havana, Cuba, at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, with a great retrospective exhibition that crossed its artistic path, from the paintings of the 1960s to the latest works on the Third Paradise and the Cuban mirror paintings, realized the previous year.
He exhibited in the most important museums in the world such as Louvre (Paris), MoMA (New York), Tate (London) among others. He had his first solo show in Havana (Cuba) in 2016 and also participated to the 57 Venice Biennale in 2017 with the collateral event: One and One Makes Three at the San Giorgio Basilica. 2018 has been a year to remember: Pistoletto did an amazing tour throughout South America, during which he also opened two mayor exhibitions in Lima and Santiago de Chile.
In June 2019 Bienal Sur hosted 'Circuito Pistoletto', a section of the Bienal entirely dedicated to the artist. This widespread exhibition ended in March 2020 and included various venues among which: the Italian Embassy, the MUNTREF (Ex Hotel des Inmigrantes and Centro de Arte Contemporaneo), Museo Benito Quinquela, and many others. In 2020 Pistoletto unveiled some new Mirror Paintings, conceived just before the international pandemic, that he then went to exhibit at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano until May 2021.