Michelangelo Pistoletto

Biography of Michelangelo Pistoletto

One of the pre-eminent Italian contemporary artists, Michelangelo Pistoletto (born 1933) is a protagonist of the Italian Arte Povera movement and a leading figure in the development of Conceptual Art. The use of various different materials and styles is an essential characteristic of his artistic work. This heterogeneity becomes particularly evident in the Ogetti in meno (1965-66) in which Pistoletto transforms ordinary materials and found objects like cardboard, wood, chairs, clothing and lamps into sculptures, collages and installations, juxtaposing them as a scenery of a walkable space of art.

Pistoletto's body of work is characterized by the constant exploration of the boundaries of reality and imagination, demonstrated not only in his early work, the self portraits of the 1950s, but in particular in the Quadri specchianti of the 1960s, photorealistic painted tissue papers on mirror-finished stainless steel. Their reflective surface integrates both the viewer and the surrounding environment into the artwork, accomplishing an intermingling of the aesthetic and the real world. The mirror functions from this point on as a central, recurring element in Pistoletto's body of work and, as such, is also addressed in works like the multiple Lo specchio (1973, edition of 450). Together with Arte Tritartista (1975, edition of 12), it ranks among the many multiples produced by Pistoletto together with many other Italian artists such as Alighiero Boetti and Giovanni Anselmo between 1970 and 1975 for Giorgio Persani's gallery Multipli. The artists, in doing so, were mostly interested in creating artwork that was democratic, and in making every single object act as a unique piece. Furthermore, Pistoletto utilizes the multiples to develop new techniques, like silk-screening on stainless polished steel, which he applied starting in 1973 with Il cappio for the first time to the Quadri specchianti.


Pistoletto's international success becomes apparent in his many awards such as the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale (2003) and the Praemium Imperiale in Tokyo (2013), and in participating in the documenta 4 (1968), documenta 7 (1982), documenta 9 (1992), and documenta 10 (1997). From 1991 to 1999 he worked as a Professor of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

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