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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION

Due Ragazzi Nudi (Two Nude Men)

Due Ragazzi Nudi (Two Nude Men)
signed, titled twice, inscribed and dated 'Pistoletto N. 118 numero centodiciotto Michelangelo Pistoletto > due ragazzi nudi < DUE RAGAZZI NUDI 1962-1978' (on the reverse)
silkscreen on mirror polished stainless steel
90 1/2 x 47 1/4in. (230 x 120.1cm.)
Executed in 1962-1978
Lucio Amelio Collection, Naples.
Private Collection, Naples (acquired from the above in 1994).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995.
Spoleto, Palazzo Ancaiani, L’eredità di Wilhem von Gloeden. Incontri Internazionali d’Arte - XXI Festival dei Due Mondi, 1978, p. 31 (illustrated, p. 33).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Held in the personal collection of the Italian gallerist Lucio Amelio before entering the Gerald Fineberg Collection in 1995, Due Ragazzi Nudi (Two Nude Men) is a rare and historic example of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings. Unseen in public since 1978, it is based on an image taken in 1900 by Wilhelm von Gloeden: the German photographer famed for his depictions of nude men. In 1977, Amelio had exhibited his own collection of von Gloeden’s photographs at his gallery in Naples. Following the show, he asked Pistoletto, Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys to create works in response to the images: the results were shown together in 1978 at the Palazzo Ancaiani, Spoleto. Extending the series he had begun in 1962, Pistoletto silkscreened his chosen photograph onto mirror-polished stainless steel. The results collapse the boundary between viewer and subject, inviting the onlooker into the illusory world of the artwork.

A pioneer of gay iconography, von Gloeden spent much of his life in Taormina, Sicily, where his extraordinary nude photographs attracted a wealth of visitors including Oscar Wilde. Falsely and mysteriously styling himself as ‘Baron von Gloeden’, his photographs were equally surreal, often featuring unusual props and otherworldly allusions to antiquity. On the cusp of the 1980s, Amelio’s exhibition brought his work to the attention of new audiences. The gallery, opened in 1969, had transformed the art scene in Naples, championing international artists ranging from masters of Arte Povera to Robert Rauschenberg and Keith Haring. Placed in dialogue with the similarly elusive and enigmatic practices of Warhol, Beuys and Pistoletto, von Gloeden’s images took on a sharp, contemporary edge. The show, incidentally, was responsible for introducing Warhol to Beuys, leading to the iconic series of portraits that Amelio himself would unveil in 1980. It also marked an important chapter in Amelio’s friendship with Pistoletto, which the artist had immortalised in the 1977 work Omaggio di Magritte a Pistoletto. Poignant and personal on multiple levels, the present work remained in Amelio’s collection until his death as a result of AIDS in 1994.

Amelio compared Due Ragazzi Nudi to the 1964 work Due donne nude che ballano, based on a photograph by Eadweard Muybridge. This early work, depicting two naked women, captures the birth of the Mirror Paintings during the heyday of the Italian avant-garde. Elegant, witty and deeply conceptual, the series had laid the foundations for the evolution of Arte Povera, as well as chiming with the currents of Pop Art in America. Pistoletto argued it was only by transforming the picture plane into a physical mirror that art could truly hope to reflect reality. The results, however, were strange and beguiling. In the present work, this quality is enhanced by von Gloeden’s seductive, suggestive imagery, the two figures seemingly cut and spliced from an unknown time and place. In his introduction to the Spoleto exhibition catalogue, the critic Roland Barthes asserted that ‘[von Gloeden] produces a world at the same time real and unreal ... an anti-oneiric world, the maddest of dreams’ (R. Barthes, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Naples 1978, p. 12). The same, ultimately, may be said of Pistoletto.

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