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    Sale 12244

    The Italian Sale

    6 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 128

    Michelangelo Pistoletto (B. 1933)

    Uomo appoggiato (Leaning Man)

    Price Realised  


    Michelangelo Pistoletto (B. 1933)
    Uomo appoggiato (Leaning Man)
    signed, titled and dated '1966 Michelangelo Pistoletto "uomo appoggiato"' (on the reverse)

    painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel
    90 ½ x 47 ¼in. (230 x 120cm.)
    Executed in 1966

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    ‘The ‘true protagonist’ of these works 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’

    ‘Nothing escapes the mirror...the great space is in the mirror, time (whole time) is already in the mirror and space has the dimension of time’

    Created in 1966, Uomo Apoggiato is a classic early example of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Quadri specchianti or ‘mirror paintings’. These are the works that have formed the core of Pistoletto’s oeuvre from the 1960s onwards and have, ever since, the artist acknowledges, run like ‘a golden line’ through his whole career. (Michelangelo Pistoletto, quoted in Ossian Ward, ‘Interview: Michelangelo Pistoletto,’ Time Out 12-18 December 2007, p. 48) Uomo Apoggiato comprises solely of a graphic representation of a lone man standing, leaning with his face away from the viewer, lost in a world of his own thoughts while set against a highly-polished reflective stainless steel background. Intended to remain an anonymous the figure, the man in this mirror-painting is in fact recognisable as the leading Turin gallerist, friend and promoter of Pistoletto, Gian Enzo Sperone. It was Sperone’s gallery, first founded in Turin in 1963, that was responsible for the early promotion of Pistoletto’s work in Italy as well as much arte povera throughout the 1960s. Uomo Apoggiato of 1966 is one of four mirror-paintings Pistoletto made of Sperone standing in a languid, relaxed and leaning pose during the 1960s. The other works in this mini-series of mirror-paintings featuring the artist’s gallerist are Uomo con pantaloni gialli of 1964 now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Man with a Chamberlain Sculpture of 1965 now in the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa and Uomo che si tocca un piede of 1966.

    ‘Nothing escapes the mirror...the great space is in the mirror, time (whole time) is already in the mirror and space has the dimension of time’

    Pistoletto’s mirror-paintings evolved out of a series of self-portrait studies that the artist painted in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was ‘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’ Pistoletto recalled, that ‘I understood that the moment had arrived to make the laws of objective reality enter the painting.’ (Michelangelo Pistoletto in the catalogue of the exhibition also quoted in Identité Italienne. G. Celant, Paris, 1981, p. 81.) The solution to this problem, Pistoletto found, was to use the mimesis and reflectivity of the mirror as a way of letting reality and the life of the person, be it himself or the viewer, enter into the painting as both a subject and a performer.

    Pistoletto began his first mirror paintings in 1961, and until 1971 when he began to silkscreen directly onto the mirrored surface, these first Quadri specchianti, as here, were made by the complex and painstaking process of blowing up a photograph, cutting out the silhouette of the figure, and then tracing it onto a semi-transparent onion-skin paper with oils and pastels. This image was then glued onto the reflective metal surface.

    Isolated against this reflective panel, Pistoletto’s subjects (usually friends, colleagues and other people he knew) began to assert and question the difference between the world of representation and the reflective ‘reality’ of the mirror. ‘Nothing escapes the mirror.’ Pistoletto observed, ‘the great space is in the mirror, time (whole time) is already in the mirror and space has the dimension of time.) (Michelangelo Pistoletto: Inside, inside the mirror 1987 reproduced in Michelangelo Pistoletto ex. cat. MACBA, Barcelona, 2000, p. 30) In looking at these works the viewer immediately enters into a paradoxical and problematic world, seemingly both participating within the often very intimate and private space of the subject - a mother nursing her child, an artist in the act of drawing or as in this work, a man standing languidly lost in thought - and yet also remaining remote and separated in an alternate space and time that simultaneously exists within the same picture. For Pistoletto’s figures always, because of the hand-crafted nature of their representation inhabit an entirely different world, frozen, and often alone, in a time that is clearly past. And yet, at the same time, and seemingly within the same frame or dimension of the picture the viewer is also able to stand within the work, participate and observe the real space and time of the gallery - one that within the confines of the picture-plain, always appears as an ever-changing present. The viewer, whose image also appears in the mirror, interacting with both these different space-times consequently acts a bridge between these two separate worlds. It was in this respect that Pistoletto felt what he described as ‘an affinity between Muybridge’s attempt to codify movement through photography and my Mirror paintings...(because they)...put images into perpetual motion while continuously dragging photographic memory into the dynamics of the present.’ (Michelangelo Pistoletto, statement 1997, cited in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev ed. Arte Povera, London, 1999, p. 15)

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    Galleria Sperone, Turin.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1960s.

    Pre-Lot Text



    D. Paparoni, Luci in galleria: da Warhol al 2000: Gian Enzo Sperone: 35 anni di mostre fra Europa e America., exh. cat., Turin 2000 (illustrated in colour, pp. 38, 101).
    B. Minola, Gian Enzo Sperone: Torino, Roma, New York. 35 anni di mostre tra Europa e America, Turin 2000, (illustrated, p. 24).


    Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1967, no. 17 (illustrated on the cover, p. 1).

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