Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Biella in 1933; after spending most of his life in Turin, it is in Biella that he has set up the Pistoletto Cittadellarte Foundation. His is a cultural reality with a wide spectrum, opened wide to value experiments and unusual journeys through the world of the image.
His father was a painter and a restorer of paintings and frescos. Encouraged by him, Pistoletto went to work in his studio at the very young age of fourteen; here he learned the traditional techniques of the past and the procedures used in historical works of art. After doing a course in advertising, he set up his own advertising studio, and at the same time, from 1956 onwards, he dedicated himself to painting, concentrating on the human figure in its essence: the first subject of his painting, in 1955, was a self-portrait. From 1956 to 1958 the artist worked on becoming figure and context, investigating the possibility of revealing in his paintings the dialectic between the reproduced and the reflected. From representing gold and silver on a surface, he passed to acrylics and synthetic paints on canvas. In 1961 he began producing his mirrored surfaces, in which the figure, in real size, appears on a sheet of photographic tissue paper, painted and mounted onto a sheet of stainless steel, polished to have a mirrored surface. In ’64, varying his language, the artist passed onto the transparency of Perspex, drawing on it or mounting a photograph of an object on it, the image of which can be found inside the surrounding space.
In 1965 Pistoletto began the Objects project in his studio in Turin. There we can see the multi-faceted artist try to give a body to a series of internal illuminations “physicized” in his studio. He produced three-dimensional works, inserting space and time into his operations; he reused old items and poor materials, along the lines of the American New Dada, but the elements he used would reveal themselves as characteristic of Arte Povera, of which Pistoletto is one of the principal exponents. In ’67 the artist opened his studio to poets, intellectuals and to the public. He worked with other artists, musicians, actors and cineastes, on a wide variety of performances, which from ’68 to ’70 would turn into the Zoo shows, and for two years would replace his efforts on “traditional” works of art. Pistoletto, moving away from the mirror, would go into the studio, onto the stage, into the streets, into the city, all as spaces to fill; and the meeting, the collaboration with the outside world would often translate itself into theatrical inventions.
In ’78, with the Division and multiplication of the mirror, the artist became artisan, a mirror-maker. Now the mirror became “strong” “because it touched the mystery of reflection, its majesty”. This moment would lead to his sculpture becoming more monumental; after 1980, it would be produced in marble or polyurethane.
From ’60 to the present day, Pistoletto has had several important personal exhibitions, in the main American and European museums and galleries, consolidating his fame on an international level. In June this year he was awarded the Golden Lion for his career at the 50th Venice Biennale.
Artist, project-maker and instigator of new images, fascinated by their possibility for representation, he is the protagonist of a global and architectural conception of art through a complex vision, one that puts him side by side with the great protagonists of Renaissance Humanism.