Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933, Biella, Italy) is widely recognised as one of the most influential contemporary artists of his generation and a leading proponent of the Arte Povera movement. Since the 1960s his work has followed two profoundly linked paths, a body of conceptual sculpture grounded in the tenets of Arte Povera and an ongoing series of Mirror Paintings, comprising figurative, graphic or sculptural images applied to the surface of polished stainless steel. Representing his dual interest in conceptualism and figurative representation, together these bodies of work have earned Pistoletto enduring international recognition. Alongside this practice, Pistoletto is the founder of the Cittadellarte in Biella, an interdisciplinary laboratory that promotes the use of art to foster social change. Its primary mission is centred upon The Third Paradise, conceived in 2003 as the promise of a future realm in which nature and society will coexist in harmony.
The mirrored surface is instrumental to Pistoletto’s practice. The reflective plane of his paintings draws the viewer and their environment into the work, altering the fiction of the painted image as a frozen moment. An ardent advocate of the performative in art, Pistoletto’s work emphasises interactivity, spontaneity, the multiplicity of imaginative worlds, and an active relationship between artwork and spectator. The mirror creates a gateway for the viewer into the virtual space of the work, creating a portal between art and life. ‘The true protagonist’, he wrote of his mirror paintings in 1966, ‘was the relationship of instantaneousness that was created between the spectator, his own reflection, and the painted figure, in an ever-present movement that concentrated the past and the figure in itself to such an extent as to cause one to call their very existence into doubt: it was the dimension of time itself’.