Michelangelo Pistoletto is a leading figure of the Arte Povera and Conceptual Art movements, renowned for dissolving the boundaries between art and life. Born to an artistic family in Biella, Italy, Pistoletto learned how to draw at an early age by working in his father’s art restoration workshop in Turin. There he studied the Old Master paintings that came through the store and was trained in classical painting, yet always questioned the nature of reality and representation. Pistoletto then studied at Armando Testa’s commercial advertising firm and was exposed to contemporary art, inspiring him to work in various mediums stretching across painting, sculpture, film, video and theater.
Pistoletto’s main goal is for art to create social change and a greater social harmony. He participated in 1950s “happenings,” which are performance events meant to be considered art. He also introduced unusual and banal materials as components of his sculptures, installations and paintings, laying foundations of Arte Povera. For example, his paintings on mirrored surfaces, the first major series in his oeuvre, integrate the viewer and surroundings into the artwork, blurring the line between reality and representation. Producing artwork outside of the gallery and theater spaces challenged established institutions and the notion of what art is.
In recent years, the environment has become an important theme, focusing on how to overcome conflict between nature and the artificial world created by man. Pistoletto currently works in Biella, where he established an interdisciplinary laboratory Cittadellarte. Cittadellarte’s promotes the use of art to foster social change and is based on The Third Paradise, conceived in 2003 as the promise of a future realm in which nature and society coexist in harmony.
Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work is owned by institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. International exhibitions include presenting work at the Venice Biennale on eleven separate occasions, as well as four Documentas.