Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933)

Ficus (Fig)

Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933)
Ficus (Fig)
signed, titled and dated 'Pistoletto 67 ficus' (on the reverse)
painted tissue-paper on stainless steel
59 1/8 x 47 3/8in. (150.3 x 120.3cm.)
Executed in 1962-1967
Kornblee Gallery, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 8 February 2006, lot 24.
Private collection, Italy.
Anon. sale, Christie’s Milan, 24 May 2011, lot 30.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate signed by the artist.

Piero put realistic figures in an abstract space. The space had its own presence, not as specific place, but as an indefinable void. Fontana took abstract painting and made the space real, by slicing through the illusion of the painted, coloured surface. These were important steps in my mind. The mirror also changed how I perceived space. Everything that came after the Mirror Paintings had to do with different ways of exploring space. For me 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, in to 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. ‘(‘Interview with Michael Auping’, K. Burton, (ed.) Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mirror Paintings, London, 2010, p. 67)

‘Pistoletto’s work is an apotheosis of the ordinary’, wrote Martin Friedman in his introduction to the Walker Art Center’s first major show of Pistoletto’s work entitled ‘Michelangelo Pistoletto: A Reflected World’ in April 1966. Ficus, executed one year later in 1967, is one of a series of mirror paintings depicting a domestic and commonplace pot-plant that relate closely to this landmark exhibition of the artist’s work.

‘Michelangelo Pistoletto: A Reflected World’ comprised entirely of numerous examples of the mirror-paintings that had dominated Pistoletto’s art since his breakthrough of 1962. Ranging from anonymous portraits and unremarkable images drawn from mundane aspects of daily life to pictures of ordinary people demonstrating and marching in protest, the subjects of the mirror-paintings in this exhibition appeared to deliberately provide a contemporary cross-section of ordinary, day-to-day, bourgeois Italian life.

Among the mirror paintings that Pistoletto made for the show were three depicting household pot-plants of the kind found in many domestic interiors at the time. These were the 1965 paintings, Philodendro (now in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo), Autoritratto con pianta (a self-portrait with a potted plant) and one of a Ficus (Fig plant) similar to the one in the present work. In addition to these three works, Pistoletto had also placed various potted plants of a similar kind throughout the exhibition space, so that their presence was reflected in the many mirror-paintings on view and the interior as a whole was lent a strange sense of continuity between its subject-matter and its environment.

Ficus, made one year later in 1967, is a work that reflects and addresses all these concerns. A humorous modern take on the still-life tradition in painting, it is also a work that, with its depiction of a single plant in a pot functions as both a decorative addition to an interior - like a pot-plant itself - and as an interactive work that projects such taste and values onto the viewer whose self-image will appear reflected alongside the plant whenever the painting is viewed. As with all of Pistoletto’s mirror-paintings, it is in this way that the work both breaks down traditional artistic barriers and opens itself to the possibility of theatre – one in which the viewer becomes the performer in a stage-set orchestrated by Pistoletto’s choice of subject matter; in this case a deliberately common-or-garden Ficus plant. ‘The mirror paintings could not live without an audience.’ Pistoletto has said. ‘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, interview with G. Boursier, in Sipario, Milan, April 1969, p. 17).

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