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Depicting the apparently banal, everyday image of an adolescent schoolboy carrying his books along a suburban street, the ‘painting’ is a work that marks an intriguing coming-together of Neo-Realist film-making, Arte Povera and American Pop. These tendencies were, of course, all leading aspects of the European cultural scene in the late 1960s of which Gunter Sachs was himself very much a part.
1967 was famously the year in which the Italian critic Germano Celant defined ‘Arte Povera’ as the emergence in Italy of a ‘movement’ whose ‘poverty’ of materials represented a ‘guerilla strike against the world of conspicuous consumption’. It was also the year in which Michelangelo Pistoletto parted from Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend because of the American and Paris-based dealers’ refusal to countenance the new direction his art had taken in the creation of his ‘Minus Objects’.
Castelli and Sonnabend wanted Pistoletto to pursue what they saw as the ‘Pop’ direction of the Mirror-Paintings which had garnered him popularity and success in America. In truth, of course, there was very little ‘Pop’ (in the more sanitised American understanding of the word) about the alienating ‘realism’ of Pistoletto’s Mirror-Paintings. As many European critics had observed, the figures and objects of Pistoletto’s Mirror-Paintings exude a pervasive sense of alienation and of banality that echoed strongly the aesthetics of Italian Neo-Realist film-making, particularly the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.
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Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933), L’Ecolier (the Schoolboy), 1967. Painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel. 39 ¼ x 47 ¼ in. (99.8 x 119.7 am.) Estimate: £300,000-500,000. This work is offered in the Post-war and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 11 February at Christie’s London