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Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE GRAZIELLA LONARDI BUONTEMPO
Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933)

Metrocubo d'infinito (Cubic Meter of Infinity)

Details
Michelangelo Pistoletto (b. 1933)
Metrocubo d'infinito (Cubic Meter of Infinity)
mirror and rope
47¼ x 47¼ x 47¼in. (120 x 120 x 120cm.)
Executed in 1966, this work is one of five versions, each uniquely coloured
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist in 1971 and thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature
Oggetti in meno, exh. cat., Turin, Studio of Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1966.
Arte Povera, exh. cat., Bologna, Galleria de' Foscherari, 1968.
Play, exh. cat., Turin, Deposito d'Arte Presente, 1968.
Elf Italiener heute, exh. cat., Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall, 1971 (another variation illustrated, p. 58).
Arte povera. 13 Italienische Kunstler, exh. cat., Munich, Kunstvverein, 1971 (another variation illustrated, p. 58).
Experimenta 4, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstverein, 1971.
M. Valsecchi, 'Un "happening" che risucchia il pubblico', in Il Tempo, Rome, 2 January 1971.
Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 1976, no. 44 and 112a-c (another variation illustrated, pp. 23 and 58-59).
Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Naples, Museo Diego Aragona Pignatelli Cortez, 1977.
Pistoletto in Berlin: Arbeiten aus den Jahren 1962-1978, exh. cat., Berlin, Nationalgalerie, 1978 (another variation illustrated, unpaged). Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Aalborg, Nordjyllands, 1978, no. 37.
Michelangelo Pistoletto: Mirror-Works, exh. cat., Houston, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, 1979, no. 12 (another variation illustrated, p. 16).
Identité Italienne: l'art en Italie depuis 1959, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1981 (another variation illustrated, p. 339).
In Labirinto, exh. cat., Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, 1981, no. 3 (another variation illustrated, p. 121; incorrectly dated 1966-1976).
Pistoletto, exh. cat., Florence, Forte di Belvedere, 1984, no. 50 (another variation illustrated, p. 59).
Del Arte Povera a 1985, exh. cat., Madrid, Palacio de Velázquez and Palacio de Cristal, 1985, no. 128 (another variation illustrated, p. 143).
The Knot: Arte Povera at P.S.1, exh. cat., New York, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 1985 (another variation illustrated, p. 224).
G. Celant, Arte Povera. Storie e protagonisti, Milan 1985, no. 146 (another variation illustrated, p. 148).
B. Corà, Michelangelo Pistoletto: lo spazio della riflessione nell'arte, Ravenna 1986, no. 48 (another variation illustrated, p. 92).
Pistoletto: Skulptur/Malerei, exh. cat., Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus, 1986.
Michelangelo Pistoletto, Baden-Baden, exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1988, no. 8 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 129).
Michelangelo Pistoletto: Oggetti in meno, exh. cat., Bern, Kunsthalle, 1989 (another variation illustrated, p. 57).
G. Celant, Arte Povera, Basel 1989, no. 22 (another variation illustrated, p. 239).
L'Arquitectura del mirall: Pistoletto, Barcelona, Centro d'Art Santa Monica, 1990 (another variation illustrated, p. 16 and illustrated in colour, p. 17).
Aktuelle Kunst Europas. Sammlung Centre Pompidou, exh. cat., Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, 1990 (another variation illustrated, p. 19).
Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, 1990, no. 44 (another variation illustrated, p. 92).
Arte Povera 1971 und 20 Jahre danach, exh. cat., Munich, Kunstverein München, 1991, no. 1-2 (another variation illustrated, pp. 18-19).
Oggetti in meno 1965-1966, exh. cat., London, Camden Arts Centre, 1991.
Michelangelo Pistoletto: gli oggetti in meno, lo specchio, la gabbia Die Minus - Objekte, Spiegel, Gitter, exh. cat., Hamburg, Deichtorhallen, 1992 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 44).
Manifeste 4: l'Arte Povera, antiform, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1992 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 56).
Pistoletto e la fotografia, exh. cat., Porto, Fundação de Serralves, 1993 (another variation illustrated, p. 55).
Distruzione/Costruzione, exh. cat., Warsaw, Centrum Ujazdowki, 1993.
33 ans dans le miroir, exh. cat., Paris, Galerie Durand Dessert, 1994.
Pistoletto through the Mirror, exh. cat., Seoul, The National Museum of Contemporary Art, 1994 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 43).
Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, 1995, no. 12 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 23).
Michelangelo Pistoletto: Memoria, intelligentia, praevidentia, exh. cat., Munich, Lenbachhaus, 1996 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 69).
Politics-Poetics: Documenta X, exh. cat., Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, 1997 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 175).
C. Papoulias, Hypertopos. Two architectural projects, Riehen 1998 (another variation illustrated, p. 25).
50 especés d'espaces, exh. cat., Marseille, Centre de la Veille Charité, 1998 (another variation illustrated, pp. 42-43).
Minimal Maximal : Die Minimal Art und ihr Einfluss auf die internationale Kunst der 90er Jahre Minimal Art and Its influence on International Art of the 1990s, exh. cat., Bremen, Neues Museum Weserburg, 1998-1999 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 197).
C. Christov-Bakargiev (ed.), Arte Povera, London 1999 (installation view of another variation illustrated, p. 66).
Materiais de Construção/Building Material, exh. cat., Lisbon, Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão-Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1999 (another variation illustrated, p. 21).
N. Bätzner, Arte Povera. Zwischen Ereignis: Paolini, Pistoletto, Kounellis, Norberg 2000 (another variation illustrated, p. 152).
Quartett. August 1968 September 2000, Baldessari, Kabakov, Kosuth, Pistoletto, exh. cat., Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, 2000 (another variation illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Michelangelo Pistoletto, Io sono l'altro, exh. cat., Turin, Palazzina della Società delle Belle Arti e Castello di Rivoli, 2000 (another variation illustrated, p.86).
Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2000-2001 (installation views illustrated in colour, p. 76 and 79).
Pistoletto - Codice Inverso, exh. cat., Perugia, various exhibition spaces, 2001 (another variation illustrated in colour, pp. 97-101 and 124).
Continenti di tempo Continents de temps Continents of time: Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Lyon, Musée d'Art Contemporain, 2001, no. 13 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 82).
Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera, 1962-1972, exh. cat., Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 2001-2002, no. 127 (installations view illustrated, p. 13; illustrated in colour, p. 311;).
Arte Povera: Art from Italy, 1967-2002, exh. cat., Sidney, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2002 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 110).
La poetica dell'Arte Povera, exh. cat., Magdeburg, Kunstmuseum Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen, 2003, no. 88 (another variation illustrated, p. 120).
Incontri dalla collezione di Graziella Lonardi Buontempo, exh. cat., Rome, Académie de France à Rome, Villa Medici, 2003 (another variation illustrated in colour, pp. 91 and 246).
Farano, Marco, M. C. Mundici and M. T. Roberto, Michelangelo Pistoletto: il varco dello specchio; azioni e collaborazioni, 1967-2004, Turin 2005 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 174).
L'Immagine del vuoto: una linea di ricerca nell'arte in Italia, 1958-2006 The Image of the Void: An Investigation on Italian Art, 1958-2006, exh. cat., Lugano, Museo Cantonale d'Arte, 2006-2007, no. 8 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 69).
Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Nice, Le Musée d'Art Moderne e d'Art Contemporain, 2007 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 118-119)
Theater without Theater, exh. cat., Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani, 2007.
Michelangelo Pistoletto. Mirror Paintings, exh. cat., London, Simon Lee Gallery, 2007-2008 (installation views illustrated, p. 69 and illustrated in colour, p. 100).
Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution, 1968-2008, exh. cat., Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 2008-2009 (another variation illustrated in colour, pp. 194-195, and illustrated, p. 305).
Time and Place: Milano-Torino 1958-1968, exh. cat., Stockholm, Moderna Museet, 2008 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 134).
Costanti del Classico nell'arte del XX e XXI secolo, exh. cat., Catania, Fondazione Puglisi Cosentino Palazzo Valle, 2009 (another variation illustrated, pp. 292-293).
Twenty Five, exh. cat., New York, Luhring Augustine, 2010.
Measuring the World. Heterotopias and Knowledge Spaces in Art, Graz, Kunsthaus Graz, 2011.
Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, exh. cat., Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, no. 96, 2011 (another variation illustrated in colour, p. 306; installation views illustrated, pp. 74 and 368).
Arte Povera 2011, exh. cat., various locations, 2011-2012 (installation views of another variation illustrated, pp. 95 and 509).
Exhibited
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Vitalità del negativo nell'arte italiana 1960/70, 1970-1971 (illustrated, unpaged).
Graz, Grazer Kunstverein, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1988 (illustrated, p. 34).
New York, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Michelangelo Pistoletto: Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1988 (illustrated, p. 86).
Venice, Palazzo Querini Dubois, Minimalia, Da Giacomo Balla a ..., 1997-1998. This exhibition later travelled to Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni.
New York, MoMA PS1, Minimalia. An Italian Vision in 20th Century Art, 1999-2000.
Rome, Académie de France à Rome, Villa Medici, Incontri dalla collezione di Graziella Lonardi Buontempo, 2003.

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.

Brought to you by

Barbara Guidotti
Barbara Guidotti

Lot Essay

A masterpiece of Michaelangelo Pistoletto's oeuvre, Metrocubo d'Infinito (A Cubic Metre of Infinity) (1966) marks a seminal turn in the course of art history. Privileging humble materials and the conceptual power of the object, Pistoletto's mirrored cube is arguably the most important of a series of pioneering Arte Povera works, which he created in the 1960s. Assembled from six mirrors, painted in a vibrant burnt orange on the reverse, Metrocubo d'Infinito constitutes an evacuated, one metre cube of air. Carefully conjoined with simple chord, the six smooth planes are bisected to form equilateral triangles, recalling the clean, geometric lines of Donald Judd's 'specific objects'. Perfectly formed, their matt exterior belies the highly reflective qualities of the cube's interior. Within the hidden chamber at the centre of this enigmatic work, we are invited to imagine an infinite series of proliferating, multi-directional reflections. Here, inside Pistoletto's mysterious, hermetic cavern, we imagine the real and virtual collapsing in a flurry of ricocheting images, transcending every spatial dimension to play with our powers of perception. It is an invisible art that is experienced through the intellectual curiosity it ignites. As the artist later averred, '[the mirror] potentially reflects every place and continues to reflect it even when and where the eye of a human being is not present the mirror acts as an intermediary between the visible and the non-visible, extending sight beyond its apparently normal faculties' (M. Pistoletto, in C. Bertola, Michaelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., Palazzo Querini Stampalia, Venice 1998, n.p.). Acknowledging the legacies of Pop Art and Minimalism, Metrocubo d'Infinito galvanised a radical artistic transformation; one that was to inspire the works of his contemporaries and myriad artists across subsequent generations including significantly Charles Ray. The work belongs to the Buontempo collection, the group of major twentieth-century art assembled by the elegant and charismatic force behind the Incontri Internazionali d'Arte, Graziella Buontempo. One of five unique and individually coloured variants, the other Metrocubo d'Infinito are currently housed in the Dallas Museum of Art, Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris as well as the artist's own private collection.


Metrocubo d'Infinito is arguably the most important of a series of Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects) created from 1965-1966, envisaged as a means of translating the virtual world of the mirror to a real object. They included Quadro de pranzo (Lunch Painting) (1965); an untranslatable pun in which quadro refers both to 'frame' and 'painting'. In this work, the frame of the painting became a place where people could physically sit and eat. At the same time participants were to become part of the composition, to be watched while eating. As the artist explained, 'each work differed from the next, just as what appears in the mirror at any given instant is different from what appears in it next. The Oggetti in meno relate the world of the possible to the real world; in effect, each Minus Object is subtracted from the possible and becomes real' (M. Pistoletto quoted in A. Bellini (ed.), Facing Pistoletto, Turin, 2009, p. 28). No reciprocal relationships can be established, nor were they intended to exist between the Minus Objects. Indeed each object was conceived as an end in itself, but as Jean-François Chevrier has asserted, 'one object emerged from the rest of the ensemble as the most symbolic and most ambitious: Metrocubo d'Infinito. In 1966, it marked a conclusion, a synthesis - because it represents infinity minus one. Pistoletto believes today that it was this object, with its inward-facing mirrors, that enabled him to work with the mirror once again. It is the star among the Minus Objects' (M. Pistoletto quoted in J. Chevrier, 'The Minus Objects: The Dimension of Time', (ed.) C. Basualdo, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 2010, p. 63).


From as early as 1961, Pistoletto had begun experimenting with the mirror as a means of exploring the relationship between figure and ground. In investigating space and perspective, Pistoletto saw himself as part of the grand lineage initiated by fifteenth century master painter Piero della Francesca, whose The Flagellation of Christ made a profound impression upon him. As Pistoletto explained, '[in this painting] the gesture of the man with the whip is suspended, without giving rise to any tension. I understood much later, when I began to make the mirror paintings, that the frozen gesture of the whip could move and develop itself in the perspective opened up by Piero' (M. Pistoletto quoted in C. Basualdo, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 2010, p. 53). At first Pistoletto painted solitary, hieratic figures against monochrome metallic backgrounds - silver, gold, bronze and finally dense, heavily varnished black, the figure flanked by its mesmeric surface. As Pistoletto explained, 'it was a shiny, reflective surface. At that moment, I realised that the universe had plummeted into the work of art - the entire universe, not just the space surrounding me this was the passage to an objectivity that accommodated everyone's subjectivity' (M. Pistoletto quoted in A. Bellini (ed.), Facing Pistoletto, Turin, 2009, p. 21).


The next step was to replace the canvas entirely with a surface of highly polished stainless steel. On the surface of the mirror, Pistoletto painted an immobile figure rendered using a photographic image in order to capture a specific place and time in the past. In the reflective background one could simultaneously witness one's own reflection: a dynamic and fleeting image of the present and the body in motion. Through the use of this mirrored medium, Pistoletto set-up an unstable relationship between figure and ground. As the artist explained, 'traditional perspective opened up like a window on the world; it didn't envisage a perspective projected from the world toward the space inside the window. The Mirror Painting is a door that opens in two directions: the viewer can enter the picture while moving away from it' (M. Pistoletto quoted in A. Bellini (ed.), Facing Pistoletto, Turin, 2009, p. 23). In creating his Metrocubo d'Infinito, Pistoletto was taking this investigation to a new level, shattering traditional perspective into multiple directions and dimensions. Turned in on each other the six mirrors, which constitute the cube, offer a hyper-illusory environment. Should the viewer find him or herself situated at the cube's centre, the proliferation of reflections and powerful optical illusion would surely test their powers of perception. Just as Kusama in her Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field (1965) found herself staring into a dizzying infinity, so Pistoletto's Metrocubo d'Infinito seeks to confound the senses. As the artist affirmed: 'I feel that in my recent works I have entered the mirror and actively penetrated that dimension of time, which was merely represented in the mirror-paintings. These recent works bear witness to the need to live and act in accordance with this dimension, i.e. in the light of the unrepeatable quality of each instant of time, each place, and thus of each 'present' action' (M. Pistoletto quoted in J. Chevrier, 'The Minus Objects: The Dimension of Time', (ed.) C. Basualdo, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 2010, p. 51).


The 1960s were a crucible for new ways of thinking and creating art. Pistoletto was at the very centre of these contemporary developments opening a solo show at the Galeria Sonnabend in Paris in 1964. The exhibition introduced his itinerary to audiences in both the United States and across Europe. In Europe his work was understood in metaphysical terms, whilst in the United States it was misapprehended as a European variant of Pop Art. 'What [Pop] had in common', Pistoletto later explained, 'was the move from subjective interpretation to objectivity. The way I saw it, though, the objectivity expressed by the Pop Art movement represented a typically American socio-economic system that seemed to want to be universal. So I couldn't identify with that idea of universality' (M. Pistoletto quoted in A. Bellini (ed.), Facing Pistoletto, Turin, 2009, p. 28). The course of the decade was experienced very differently in Italy than across the Atlantic, with social upheaval spreading across Europe and culminating in the revolutionary student movement of 1968. Pistoletto's mirrors, with their constantly changing images, were a reflection of the forever changing realities and transformations in the region.


With its perpendicular angles and sleek metal finish, Metrocubo d'Infinito also enters a dialogue with Minimalism, recalling Donald Judd's seminal text 'Specific Objects' (1965), asserting the primacy of work in three dimensions. Yet, Metrocubo d'Infinito goes beyond the Americans' tribute to industry, towards a meditation on space travel and exploration during the period. For Pistoletto as for his artistic forebears, Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein, his work was the carrier and articulation of a new spatial concept. Just as Klein fervently believed in the power of colour and the void to transcend materiality and confer access to the spiritual realm, and just as Fontana cut the surface of his canvas to open up infinity beyond the picture plane, so Pistoletto was offering a way 'through the looking glass'. This is particularly manifest in Metrocubo d'Infinito, but also in the entire series of Minus Objects. As Basualdo has asserted, they are 'right in the space of the spectator, brash and surprisingly beautiful, intellectually complex and full of lightness and play. It is not only that they occupy literally or experientially, the space of the viewer, but also that they resonate explosively in the imagination. Their multi-dimensionality continues to grow as we contemplate them' (C. Basualdo, Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 2010, p. 53).


The conceptual acuity introduced by Metrocubo d'Infinito was to resonate with numerous of Pistoletto's contemporaries including Pino Pascali and the young Alighiero Boetti whose contemporary work adopted a similar trajectory. During this period Boetti was to create his Lampada Annuale (1966); a simple blue wooden box installed with a light bulb triggered to light at random once a year for eleven seconds. This object introduced the notion of time and sequence, duality and opposition to Boetti's work in a manner akin to Pistoletto's own practice. In Germany, although ostensibly unrelated, Gerhard Richter had also begun to undertake his own constructive and conceptually driven works, using four empty panes of glass in Vier Glasscheiben (Four Glass Panes) (1967) pivoted around a horizontal axis, to consider the nature of objectivity, reality and representation. Pistoletto's early conceptual departure in Metrocubo d'Infinito can be understood as a source of inspiration for generations of subsequent artists including Charles Ray with works such as Untitled (glass-chair) (1976); meditating on the ordinary object cast into infinity through its reflections in glass, and 32x33x35=34x33x35 (1989); a box which manipulates the idea of the cube, with each of its four plates of aluminium recessed into the ground. As Ray has said of his cube works, in words that resonate and could almost have been Pistoletto's own: 'it is a mind body problem. I was thinking of putting a thought in a box and seeing what might happen. Thought displaces the physical world and the physical world displaces thought' (C. Ray interview with L. Barnes, C. Ray, L. Barnes & D. Cooper (eds.), Charles Ray, San Clemente, 1990, p. 14).

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