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  • Provenance

    Galleria Giorgio Persano, Turin
    Private Collection, Turin (acquired from the above in the late 1970s)

  • Exhibited

    New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1974, n.p. (29 panels illustrated)
    Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Pistoletto, 16 June - 28 July 1976, p. 71 and p. 106 (29 panels illustrated and listed)
    Geneva, Galerie Marie-Louise Jeanneret, Michelangelo Pistoletto: 16 ans a l’interieur du miroir, 1977, front and back cover pages (4 of 29 panels illustrated)
    New York, MoMA P.S.1, Pistoletto Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1988, p. 153 (2 of 29 panels illustrated)
    Florence, Forte del Belvedere, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1984, no. 100, p. 100 and p. 193 (29 panels illustrated)
    Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1990, p. 118 and p. 156 (2 of 29 panels illustrated and listed)
    Barcelona, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Turin, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea; Lyon, Musée d’Art Contemporain; Barcelona, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona y Actar, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 27 January 2000 - 6 May 2001, pp. 52-53 (2 of 29 panels illustrated)
    Venice, Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, Mapping the Studio. Artists from the François Pinault Collection, 6 June 2009 - 6 June 2010, p. 347 and p. 380 (9 of 29 panels illustrated and listed)
    London, Serpentine Gallery, Michelangelo Pistoletto the Mirror of Judgement, 12 July 2011 to 17 September 2011, p. 49 (4 of 29 panels illustrated)
    London, Luxembourg & Dayan, Pistoletto Politico: Works by Michelangelo Pistoletto, 12 February - 12 April 2013, n.p (4 of 29 panels illustrated)

  • Literature

    Bruno Cora, Pistoletto, Ravenna, 1986, no. 149, n.p (2 of 29 panels illustrated)
    Germano Celant, Pistoletto, 1988, p. 153 (2 of 29 panels illustrated)
    Germano Celant, Pistoletto, 1989, p. 152 (2 of 29 panels illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1970 Michelangelo Pistoletto established The Zoo, a theatre group that collectively performed in unconventional spaces throughout Italy and other European cities. The group’s name was first suggested by Carlo Colnaghi, a friend of Pistoletto. In reference to modern civilisation’s organisation of the social body politic, Colnaghi allegedly expressed how he felt like a lion trapped in a cage. Society creates cages that confine every kind of animal, for example, public housing, factories, football stadiums or, in the case of the 'artist' species, biennials, public institutions and private galleries. The concept of La Gabbia, the cage, was already present in Pistoletto's visual vocabulary in 1962 when he conceived his mirrored works which included cages for birds, monkeys and eventually, in its most evocative variation, a cage for the viewer.
    Between 1962 and 1974, Pistoletto produced 29 panels, each comprised of a cage section. Viewed as a unified whole the works produce the effect of trapping the viewer inside. Read individually or as in this case a group of four, the work succeeds in creating a profoundly disconcerting environment. La Gabbia, while maintaining a very slick and abstract dimension, is a highly political work with a philosophical line of enquiry. In a minimal and subtle manner Pistoletto questions the human psyche and the foundations of our freedom. Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, architecture and decoration La Gabbia opens up multiple layers of spatial perception. Similar to the creative output of Daniel Buren, Pistoletto’s bars reflect the space in which they are installed. The stripe, like the bar, is an archetypal element which is immediate and direct. Furthermore, like Jasper Johns Flags and Targets the viewer is immediately aware of the universal imagery and the connotations the cage provides.
    La Gabbia is very similar in concept to Warhol’s Electric Chair. However, while Warhol was mutating horror in beauty, death into ecstasy, Pistoletto emptied his own symbol of human aberration in order to make physical space for the viewer. In front of Warhol’s work we are observers, in front and inside Pistoletto’s work we participants implemented in an utterly disorientating condition. The Italian artist’s monochromatic palette acquires a unique directness, very similar to what the German theatre director and writer Bertold Brecht was achieving in his celebrated productions. Warhol transformed reality into a dream-like fantasy while Pistoletto builds up in the eyes of the beholder an amazing and acute self-awareness. For Pistoletto we are never looking at the world but we are always part of it, caught in it as visitors or prisoners. Because of its scale La Gabbia is perhaps one of the most significant works by the artists.
    While usually the ‘Specchi’, the mirrors, include one or more human figures, La Gabbia addresses the notions of space and void. The bars in their unequivocal simplicity close and open the space, while at the same time creating both the possibility of freedom than its negation. La Gabbia thus has a stern and orderly composition which is reminiscent of the work of minimalist giant Walter De Maria. Meanwhile the present work’s modularity echoes Sol LeWitt’s sculptures; both artists whose work Pistoletto encountered during his travels to the United States on the occasion of his seminal exhibition A Reflected World at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1966. Furthermore, artists such as Jeff Koons expanded Pistoletto’s revolutionary intuition using stainless steel and reflective surfaces for his sculptures, to allow the viewer to be entrapped within his work. In its capacity to enable a dialogue between Pop Art, Minimalism and Arte Povera La Gabbia remains one of the rare examples of contemporary art capable to bridge the late 60’s European political and intellectual attitudes with the American hard-core Conceptual atmosphere of the early 70’s. As a painting, a sculpture and a concept La Gabbia stands unique in its kind.


4 Gabbie

signed, titled, and dated 'Michelangelo Pistoletto ">4 gabbie< --4 GABBIE --" 1962-74' on the reverse of one panel
silkscreen on polished stainless steel, in 4 parts
each 230 x 125 cm (90 1/2 x 49 1/4 in.)
overall 230 x 500 cm (90 1/2 x 196 7/8 in.)

Executed in 1962-1974, the 4 panels are separate from the 29 panels referred to in the exhibition history.

£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for £1,325,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017