Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Biella, Italy, 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 investigation into self-portraiture characterizes his early work.
In the two-year period (1961-1962), he 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 ‘Hominitheism and Demopraxy’ ( → ), a manifesto ‘of a human being, at a certain point in space and time‘, Michelangelo Pistoletto wrote: ‘I came to the mirror in search of my identity.’
‘Who am I? What am I? How can I establish my identity through art? Since I come from a totally figurative artistic culture, I took my personal appearance as the image to identify. To do this I utilized the method of the self-portrait, which requires the use of the mirror. The image of myself, portrayed life-size, remained fixed in the picture, while the ground against which it was set became reflective.
Into the mirror, turned into a work of art, entered the world, and so my self-portrait became a self-portrait of the world. Through him or herself, the artist discovers the other than self. The identity of my fixed image tallies with the identity of any other person who, looking in the mirror, carries out the same process of establishment of an identity as I did. Each of us, looking in the mirror, can examine the whole of physical existence that lies in front of the mirror.’