The son of a restorer, from 1947 to 1958 Pistoletto worked in his father’s workshop in Turin. During the 1950s, he also started realising figurative paintings and self portraits, and began exhibiting his works in 1955. In 1960, the Galleria Galatea in Turin hosted his first solo show.
In the early 1960s, Pistoletto started painting on monochrome and metallic backgrounds. He later chose to print photorealistic scenes on polished steel plates, a method which made the observer “melt” into the image represented. In 1961-1962, he began making his emblematic “Mirror Paintings”, consisting of painted figures or printed photographic images on human size mirrors. Through these, the artist questioned the constantly changing realities in which the work finds itself, and opened up perspective, thus reversing the Renaissance spatial theories. A foundation of Pistoletto’s subsequent artistic research and theoretical thought, the mirrors aim at producing, with their reflective properties, an interactive dialogue between the viewer and the image in front of them. In addition, the spectator is given a central role in the artwork, literally becoming part of it, as his mirrored image seems to interact with the printed motif.
At the end of the 1970s, after having withdrawn from the art scene for a few years, Pistoletto began drawing on antiquity and started producing sculptures, heads and torsos, using materials such as polyurethane and steel. He also pursued performance and theatre projects, especially in Italy and the USA, such as Anno Uno, presented in March 1981 in the Teatro Quirino, Rome. The artist has been living and working in Turin since 1990.
Pistoletto’s intensive artistic career as a major representative of Arte Povera granted him several acknowledgments, such as the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifelong Achievement in 2003, the Laurea Honoris Causa in Political Science by the University of Turin in 2004, and Tokyo’s Praemium Imperiale for Painting in 2013. Among the museums that dedicated retrospectives to his work are the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1966), the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (1967), the Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1978), and the Musée du Louvre, Paris (2013). His works also feature in the modern and contemporary collections of leading museums, including the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, the Tate Modern in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Galleria Nazionale d'arte moderna in Rome. The artist participated twelve times - from 1966 to 2011- in the Venice Biennale, and four times in Documenta Kassel, from 1968 to 1997.
In 1996, Pistoletto founded the art city Cittadelarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, hosted in a discarded textile factory near Biella. Conceived as both a centre and workshop, it aims to bring art into active relation with different spheres of society, in order to inspire and produce responsible social change.
Art and industry in 1960s Italy
Boom. Art and industry in 1960s Italy, exhibition catalogue published in one language ( English ), edited by Flavia Frigeri with texts by Flavia Frigeri and Ursula Casamonti. 92 pages, illustrated artworks
2018, pag 92, English