Michelangelo Pistoletto - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)
    Thence by descent

  • Catalogue Essay

    Constituting part of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s most identifiable and celebrated body of Quadri Specchianti or Mirror Paintings, Ritratto di Marisa Palazzolo, 1988, exemplifies the artist’s radical and articulate use of the reflective surface. Originally explored in a series of painted self-portraits made in the early 1960’s, Pistoletto was inspired by the likes of Francis Bacon and performance art. Pistoletto's Mirror Paintings create the opportunity for performance and drama through their essential viewer participation, subsequently breaking down the conventional borderlines between the artwork and surrounding life - something that was later to be explored by artist’s like Anish Kapoor in his highly polished concave forms.

    The woman laughing from the mirrored surface is laughing with us, the viewer. It is the viewer's reflection when looking at the work that completes the piece, transforming the observer of the work into its subject. As was Pistoletto’s playful purpose, the viewer is an essential active participant, a collaborator in the artist’s creative plan and a performer who has the ability to dynamically alter the surface of the work through their own presence and imagination. 'The mirror paintings could not live without an audience. They were created and re-created according to the movement and to the interventions they reproduced. The step from the mirror paintings to theatre – everything is theatre – seems simply natural … It is less a matter of involving the audience, of letting it participate, as to act on its freedom and on its imagination, to trigger similar liberation mechanisms in people' (Michelangelo Pistoletto in 1969, quoted in Michelangelo Pistoletto: The Mirror of Judgement, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London, 2011, n.p.).

    Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings enabled him to break away from the flattening of perspective. Looking at art-history, Manet’s use of the painted mirror in The Bar at the Folies-Bergere offered a way out of the flatness of the painting through the inclusion of the reflection of the artist standing in front of it, a figure to who the viewer of the work could relate. Exploring this notion, Pistoletto draws the viewer in through their own reflection encouraging the viewer to understand their relationship to the image and situation within the room. However, a silent dissociation exists in the smaller reflection of the reflected viewer in comparison to the silkscreen image, mulitplying the distance of the viewer from the mirror. It is not possible to inhabit this image nor is it possible to concurrently focus on both the reflection and photographic image at same time. Disconnected spaces between the adhered flat image of the silkscreen and the reflected image of the viewer are discovered through the reflective surface: 'The mirror', Pistoletto has said, 'reflects every place and continues to reflect even when and where no human eye is present. ...A meeting point between the human mirroring and reflective phenomenon and the universal reality that the mirror is itself capable of reflecting, …it functions as a mediator between the visible and the non-visible, extending the eyesight beyond its apparently normal capabilities. Whether in a room or on an altar, a mirror expands the possibilities of the eye and the capacity of the mind so far as to offer a vision of totality' (Michelangelo Pistoletto quoted in, 'L’arte assume la religione.', in Germano Celant, Michelangelo Pistoletto, New York, 1989, p.28).


Ritratto di Marisa Palazzolo

signed, titled, numbered and dated 'N.250 Ritratto di Marisa Palazzolo Michelangelo Pistoletto 1988' on the reverse
silkscreen on polished stainless steel mirror
125 x 165 cm (49 1/4 x 64 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1988.

£150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Director, Specialist
Head of Day Sale
+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 3 October 2019