Michelangelo Pistoletto - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, June 30, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Once you put your hand in front of one of these mirrors, your body merges with the space. You become a part of that space. This was the concept behind the Mirror Paintings from the beginning—to have the human presence feel connected to an always expanding and changing space.'
    —Michelangelo Pistoletto

    Executed in 1967, Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terra is an exquisite early example of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Quadri specchianti, or Mirror Paintings, that form the cornerstone of the artist’s celebrated oeuvre. Created in the pivotal year that curator and critic Germano Celant coined the term ‘Arte Povera’, the radical avant-garde movement pioneered by Pistoletto, the present work depicts the artist’s close friend Graziella Derossi sitting on the floor while the viewer, when approaching the painting, enters the figure’s space, engendering a dynamic oscillation between illusion and reality, reflection and perception. Testifying to its historic significance, Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terra featured in the artist’s first action piece, La fine di Pistoletto (The End of Pistoletto), at the Piper Pluriclub, Turin on March 6, 1967, as well as Pistoletto’s landmark exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels the following month and documenta 4, Kassel in 1968. In 2010, the present work was included in the artist’s first major American survey, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

     

    The present work installed at the Piper Pluriclub during La fine di Pistoletto (The End of Pistoletto), Turin, March 6, 1967. Photograph by Renato Rinaldi. Courtesy of Derossi Associati, Turin.
    The present work installed at the Piper Pluriclub during La fine di Pistoletto (The End of Pistoletto), Turin, March 6, 1967. Photograph by Renato Rinaldi. Courtesy of Derossi Associati, Turin.

     

    'When I realized that someone like Pollock, although he attempted to transfer life onto canvas through action, did not succeed in taking possession of the work, which continued to escape him, remaining autonomous, and that the presence of the human figure in the painting of Bacon did not succeed in rendering a pathological vision of reality, I understood that the moment had arrived to make the laws of objective reality enter the painting.'
    —Michelangelo Pistoletto

    An ongoing series begun in 1962 and the artist’s most acclaimed body of work, the Mirror Paintings emerged out of a series of self-portraits Pistoletto created between the late 1950s and early 1960s after seeing the first exhibition of Francis Bacon’s work in Italy at the Galleria Galatea, Turin in 1958. In 1961, after seeing his own reflection in the black ground of his self-portrait, ‘the objectivity of it brought me into a new way of looking at portraiture, as well as pictorial space,’ the artist recalled. ‘You find yourself in an unusual space between the picture, the mirror, and the world around the picture and the mirror. These are all realities which surround you. For me, objectivity means finding a way to integrate these realities.’i Thus, the subject of Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings as Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terra would not become the depicted figure nor the viewer, but the question of realities and the ever-changing present as seen through ‘portraits of interactions […] as a changing portrait of society.’ii As Pistoletto explained, ‘The true protagonist 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.’iii
     

    [left] Michelangelo Pisoletto, Il presente-Uomo di fronte, 1961. Romilda Bollati Collection, Milan. 
[right] Francis Bacon, Man in Blue II, 1954. The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2010/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
    Michelangelo Pisoletto, Il presente-Uomo di fronte, 1961. Romilda Bollati Collection, Milan.


    For his first Mirror Paintings comprising Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terra, Pistoletto used his close circle of friends as his photographed models, frequently choosing to photograph his subjects in profile or from the back to keep his figures unidentifiable. Seeking to create ‘a more visually harmonious relationship between depicted subject and the reflections in the polished steel’, the artist enlarged the photograph to life size and traced the image of the figure into a monochromatic rendering with black paint and pencil onto tissue paper (velina).iv The velina was then flipped over and adhered to the stainless-steel surface—resulting in a reversed orientation of the figure’s pose from the photograph—after which painted color was applied to the tissue-paper rendering. The present work, as well as other early examples from the series, distinguish themselves from Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings created after 1971, when the artist changed his process by replacing the velina with a silkscreened imaged on the mirrored surface.
     

    The artist and Alessandro Lacirasella holding the photographic enlargement used for the velina figure for the creation of the present work, Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, 2009. Photographed by Suzanne Penn.
    The artist and Alessandro Lacirasella holding the photographic enlargement used for the velina figure for the creation of the present work, Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, 2009. Photographed by Suzanne Penn.

     

    By integrating viewers into the space of the work itself, a fundamental concept that pervades Pistoletto’s practice, Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terra engenders a tension between the static and dynamic, second and third dimensions, representation and reality. While the figure inhabits the world of created art or a fixed past, the viewer breaks into this realm through the portal of his or her reflected image in the mirror, thereby simultaneously challenging the notion of lived realities and spatial dimensions—both in life and in art. ‘For me’, Pistoletto recently expressed, ‘the mirror was not only an illusionistic pathway back through the wall, back into the space of the traditional perspective or even into the material cut of Fontana and the mysterious dark space behind the canvas. It suggested a double projection, into the wall and out into the space of the viewer. In a way it integrated painting and sculpture. You could virtually walk in the space that was reflected in the painting […] For centuries we have been projecting ourselves into the fictional space of painting. I thought it was time to have the space project out to us, to once again create space.’v Shattering the boundaries between painting and sculpture, the present work thus further invokes inquiries into perception of the self in relation to the external world. In the words of Jeremy Lewison, ‘A Mirror Painting is a means to orientation in the world, of encouraging conscious experience of phenomena as experiences from the first person point of view, invoking perception, thought, memory, bodily awareness and social activity. It is a work of art in the world and the world in a work of art.’vi

     

    The present work in Pistoletto’s studio on via Reymond in Turin, 1967. Standing to the left is the architect of the Piper Pluriclub, Piero Derossi. Also reflected in the painting are Paolo Bressano and Graziella Derossi (the painting’s subject). Photograph by Paolo Bressano. Courtesy of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella.
    The present work in Pistoletto’s studio on via Reymond in Turin, 1967. Standing to the left is the architect of the Piper Pluriclub, Piero Derossi. Also reflected in the painting are Paolo Bressano and Graziella Derossi (the painting’s subject). Photograph by Paolo Bressano. Courtesy of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella.


    i Michelangelo Pistoletto, quoted in Michael Auping, ‘Society and Surface: Two Interviews with Michelangelo Pistoletto,’ in Katharine Burton, ed., Michelangelo Pistoletto: Mirror Paintings, Ostfildern, 2011, p. 64.
    ii Michelangelo Pistoletto, quoted in Michael Auping, ‘Society and Surface: Two Interviews with Michelangelo Pistoletto,’ in Katharine Burton, ed., Michelangelo Pistoletto: Mirror Paintings, Ostfildern, 2011, pp. 65-66.
    iii Michelangelo Pistoletto, The Minus Objects (exh. cat.), Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa, 1966, n.p.
    iv Suzanne Penn, ‘“The Complicity of the Materials” in Pistoletto's Paintings and Mirror Paintings,’ in Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2010, p. 149.
    v Michelangelo Pistoletto, quoted in Michael Auping, ‘Society and Surface: Two Interviews with Michelangelo Pistoletto’, in Katharine Burton, ed., Michelangelo Pistoletto: Mirror Paintings, Ostfildern, 2011, p. 67.
    vi Jeremy Lewison, ‘Looking at Pistoletto/Looking at Myself’, In Katharine Burton, ed., Michelangelo Pistoletto: Mirror Paintings, Ostfildern, 2011, p. 33. 

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
      The Helga and Walther Lauffs Collection, Germany (acquired from the above in 1968 at documenta 4, Kassel)
      David Zwirner, New York (acquired from the above in 2008)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

    • Exhibited

      Turin, Piper Pluriclub, La fine di Pistoletto, 6 – 9 March 1967
      Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 4 April - 7 May 1967, no. 40 (titled as Jeune fille assise par terre)
      Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Michelangelo Pistoletto, May 1967 (illustrated on the exhibition invitation)
      Paris, Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 12 December 1967 - 13 January 1968
      London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Obsessive Image 1960-1968, 10 April – 29 May 1968, no. 75, p. 65 (titled as Jeune fille en mini-jupe)
      Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Karlsruhe and Galerie an der Schönen Aussicht, documenta 4, 27 June – 6 October 1968, vol. I, no. 3, pp. 234-235 (illustrated; Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris, 1967 installation view illustrated; titled as Donna seduta in mini gonna)
      Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, on loan 1968 - 2008
      Krefeld, Museum Haus Esters, Die Sammlung Lauffs I, 4 March – 29 April 2001, pp. 5, 15 (illustrated; titled as Ragazza in minigonna)
      New York, David Zwirner and Zwirner & Wirth; Zurich, Hauser & Wirth, Selections from the Collection of Helga and Walther Lauffs, 1 May – 26 July 2008
      New York, David Zwirner and Zwirner & Wirth, Minimal and Conceptual Art in Europe from the Collection of Helga and Walther Lauffs, 5 November 2008 – 7 January 2009
      Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art; Rome, MAXXI – Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, 2 November 2010 – 26 June 2011, no. 46, pp. 151, 240-241, 377 (illustrated)
      Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Red over Yellow: A Selection from a Private Collection, 21 June – 2 December 2017, pp. 22, 24, 87, 64 (illustrated, p. 25)

    • Literature

      Paul Wember, Kunst in Krefeld: Öffentliche und private Kunstsammlungen, Cologne, 1973, pl. 105, pp. 171, 241 (illustrated; titled as Ragazza in minigonna)
      Gerhard Storck, Sammlung Helga and Walther Lauffs im Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld: Amerikanische und europaische Kunst der sechziger und siebziger Jahre, Krefeld, 1983, no. 271, p. 236
      Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Museu d'Art Contemporani, Barcelona, 2000 (Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1967 installation view illustrated, p. 32)
      Marco Farano, Maria Cristina Mundici and Maria Teresa Roberto, Michelangelo Pistoletto. Il varco dello specchio. Azioni e collaborazioni, Turin, 2005, p. 64 (Piper Pluriclub, Turin, 1967 installation view illustrated, p. 15)
      Alexandra Whitney, ed., The Helga and Walther Lauffs Collection. Volume I, Göttingen, 2009, p. 106 (illustrated, p. 107; Zwirner & Wirth, New York, 2008 installation view illustrated, p. 108)
      Alexandra Whitney, ed., The Helga and Walther Lauffs Collection. Volume II, Göttingen, 2009, no. 206, fig. 13, pp. 56, 168-169 (illustrated; Piper Pluriclub, Turin, 1967 installation view illustrated; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1967 installation view illustrated; Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris, 1967 installation view illustrated)
      Alain Elkann, La Voce di Pistoletto, Milan, 2013, p. 149 (illustrated)

Ο ◆10

Ragazza in minigonna / Ragazza seduta per terra

painted tissue paper with graphite and coloured pencil on polished stainless steel
230.2 x 120 x 2.2 cm (90 5/8 x 47 1/4 x 0 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1962-1967.

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Estimate
£1,800,000 - 2,200,000 ‡ ♠

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 30 June 2022