The Voice of Pistoletto

Michelangelo Pistoletto and others in conversation about what it means to use words to deal with art


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies

Organizing Institutions

Center for Italian Studies, Slought


Marina Della Putta Johnston



Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought and the Center for Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce a public event with artist Michelangelo Pistoletto on Monday, November 3, 2014 from 6-8:00pm. This candid and wide-ranging conversation will seek to demystify Pistoletto's story as an artist and address his inspirations, the philosophical implications of his multifaceted works, and his relationships with gallerists, critics, and curators.

Pistoletto's conversants will include Alain Elkann, a novelist, journalist, and Visiting Professor of Italian literature at the University of Pennsylvania; Christine Poggi, Professor of modern and contemporary art and criticism in the History of Art Department at the University of Pennsylvania; and Fabio Finotti, Mariano DiVito Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Copies of The Voice of Pistoletto (Rizzoli Books, 2014) will be available for purchase and light refreshments will be served.

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Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Biella in 1933. He began to exhibit his work in 1955 and in 1960 he had his first solo show at Galleria Galatea in Turin. An inquiry into self-portraiture characterizes his early work. In the two-year period 1961-1962 made the first Mirror Paintings, which directly include the viewer and real time in the work, and open up perspective, reversing the Renaissance perspective that had been closed by the twentieth-century avant-gardes. These works quickly brought Pistoletto international acclaim, leading, in the sixties, to one-man shows in important galleries and museums in Europe and the United States. The Mirror Paintings are the foundation of his subsequent artistic output and theoretical thought.

In 1965 and 1966 he produced a set of works entitled Minus Objects, considered fundamental to the birth of Arte Povera, an art movement of which Pistoletto was an animating force and a protagonist. In 1967 he began to work outside traditional exhibition spaces, with the first instances of that "creative collaboration" he developed over the following decades by bringing together artists from different disciplines and diverse sectors of society. In 1975-76 he presented a cycle of twelve consecutive exhibitions, Le Stanze, at the same gallery in Turin. This was the first of a series of complex, year-long works called "time continents." Others are White Year (1989) and Happy Turtle (1992).

In 1978, in a show in Turin, Pistoletto defined two main directions his future artwork would take: Division and Multiplication of the Mirror and Art Takes On Religion. In the early eighties he made a series of sculptures in rigid polyurethane, translated into marble for his solo show in 1984 at Forte di Belvedere in Florence. From 1985 to 1989 he created the series of "dark" volumes called Art of Squalor. During the nineties, with Project Art and with the creation in Biella of Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto and the University of Ideas, he brought art into active relation with diverse spheres of society with the aim of inspiring and producing responsible social change.

In 2003 he won the Venice Biennale's Golden Lion for Lifelong Achievement. In 2004 the University of Turin awarded him a laurea honoris causa in Political Science. On that occasion the artist announced what has become the most recent phase of his work, Third Paradise. In 2010, the exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto. From One to Many. 1957-1974 was on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2013, the exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto, année un - le paradis sur terre was on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

— Download Michelangelo Pistoletto's manifesto Omnitheism and democracy (Cittadellarte Edizioni, 2012)

"Venus of the Rags has become an emblem of Arte Povera. It's a work that has many meanings. First of all, there's recycling: it represents the consumed consumer product, brought back to life thanks to the undying beauty of the nude statue. Expressed in another way, it's the same principle as the Mirror Paintings: the relationship between what changes and what never changes."

— Michelangelo Pistoletto in conversation with Alain Elkann, The Voice of Pistoletto, Rizzoli, 2014