Michelangelo Pistoletto (born 23 June 1933 in Biella) is an Italian painter, action and object artist, and art theorist. Pistoletto is acknowledged as one of the main representatives of the Italian Arte Povera, his work mainly deals with the subject matter of reflexion and the unification of art and everyday life in terms of a Gesamtkunstwerk.
Life and work
From 1947 until 1958, Pistoletto worked in his father’s restoration workshop in Turin. In the 1950s he started painting figurative works and self-portraits. 1959, he participated in the Biennale di San Marino. In the following year, he had his first solo exhibition in the Galleria Galatea in Turin. At the beginning of the 1960s, Pistoletto started painting figurative works and self-portraits which he painted on a monochrome, metallic background. Later on, he combined painting with photographies using collage techniques on reflective backgrounds. In doing so, he sometimes used concave or convex distorting mirrors, which had the effect that the beholder appeared to be either too tall or small compared to the apparently realistic, painted figures. Eventually, he switched over to printing photorealistic scenes on steelplates polished to a high finish. He did that using screen-printing method which made the beholder almost completely fuse with the depicted. In the middle of the 1960s, gallery owner Ileana Sonnabend brought him into contact with an international audience.
1965/1966 he produced the work series Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects) which belongs to Pistoletto’s early plastic works. 1966, Pistoletto had his first solo exhibition in the USA, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In 1967 his work was awarded with the first prize on the Biennale de São Paolo. In the same year, Pistoletto started focusing on performance, video art and theatre. He founded an action art group, called "Zoo Group", which had several performances between 1968 and 1970. These took place in the studio, public buildings or on the streets of Turin or other large cities. As it was already the case with Pistoletto’s 2-dimensional and sculptural works, the aim was to display the unity of art and everyday life.
More and more the artist used everyday, banal, and shabby requisites for his works: The 1967 installation Venere degli stracci (Venus of the Rags)
is a clear hint towards this novel poor's art (arte povera
): The copy of a "classically beautiful" aphrodite
's sculpture placed in front of a pile of old cloths. The opus received a lot of feedback: Pistoletto, who started under the American influence of the "post-pop art
" and the photorealism
, soon was listed by gallery owners and critics in the catalogues as a significant representative of the novel, mostly Italian trend of the "Arte Povera". In front of the background of the 1968 student riots
Pistoletto drew back his participation at the Venice Biennale
. In the following years he dealt with conceptual ideas, which he submitted as the book L'uomo nero
(1970). In 1974 he nearly completely backed aout of the art scene: he made an exam as skiing instructor and spent most of his time in the mountains of San Sicario
. At the end of the 1970s he produced sculptures, heads, and torsi using polyurethane
. In doing so he was a recipient of antique artefacts and furthermore continued other performance and theatre projects–amongst others places in the USA in Athens
, and San Francisco
. In the beginning 1980s he presented theatre works, e.g. Anno Uno
(March 1981) in the Teatro Quirino
. Since 1990 Pistoletto is living and working in Turin.
Cittadelarte – Fondazione Pistoletto
In 1994 Michelangelo Pistoletto proclaimed his programme Progetto Arte
, whose aim was the creative
and social economic
unification of all parts of human existence, in a narrower sense the systematic combination of all achievements and knowledge of the civilisation
with art's aspects (e.g. fashion, theatre, design
etc.). In 1996 he founded the art city Cittadelarte – Fondazione Pistoletto
in a discarded textile factory near Biella, as centre and "laboratory" supporting and researching the creative ressources, and producing innovative ideas and possibilities. The Cittadelarte is divided into different Uffici/Offices
, and economics
), which are mutually exchanging within an intermedial network. Although it is conceived as a closed system, the transparency towards the outer world is an important aspect of the Cittadelarte.
- 1976/92: Scaffale (Bookcase) – metal and enamel, various realisations, Tate Gallery
- 1962/82: Uomo in piedi (Standing Man) – serigraphy on polished steel, Tate Gallery
- 1967/74: Venere degli stracci (Venus of the Rags) – sculpture and textils, Tate Gallery
- 1965/66: Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects) – various objects, Guggenheim Museum
- 1997: L'ala die Krems. (The Wing of Krems), Krems an der Donau
Writings of Michelangelo Pistoletto
- Der schwarze Mann. Die unerträgliche Seite. Transl. by Johannes Schlebrügge, Pakesch und Schlebrügge, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-85160-004-5
- Michelangelo Pistoletto. Actar, 2000, ISBN 84-95273-28-4
- Thomas Deecke: Michelangelo Pistoletto. Den Spiegel vorhalten. Künstler - Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst, Ausgabe 11, Munich 1990 ISSN 0934-1730
- Helmut Friedel: Michelangelo Pistoletto. Memoria Intelligentia Praevidentia. Katalog zur Ausstellung 1996 im Lenbachhaus München, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-89322-838-1
- Michelangelo Pistoletto: A Minus Artist. Hopefulmonster Editore, 1988, ISBN 88-7757-020-2
- Nike Bätzner: Arte povera. Zwischen Erinnerung und Ereignis: Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis. Verlag für moderne Kunst, Nuremberg, 2000, ISBN 3-933096-34-0