Michelangelo Pistoletto is one of the leading contemporary artists in the world. In the early 1960s, Michelangelo Pistoletto created the first Quadro Specchiante (Mirror Paintings), which directly involved the viewer and the artwork in real-time, opening up new perspectives and reversing the Renaissance perspective that had been closed off by the avant-garde of the twentieth century. These works, which form the basis of his subsequent artistic practice and theoretical thought, quickly brought Pistoletto international acclaim. In the 1960s, he had one-man shows in important galleries and museums in Europe and the United States.

In the latter part of the 1960s, Pistoletto produced a series of works titled "Oggetti in meno" (Minus Objects), which are considered fundamental to the birth of Arte Povera, an art movement in which Pistoletto was an influential force and a key figure. In 2004, the University of Turin awarded him an honorary degree in political science, and on that occasion, the artist announced the most recent phase of his work: Third Paradise. In December 2022, his latest book, "La formula della creazione," which retraces the fundamental steps and evolution of his entire artistic career and his theoretical reflections, was published.

This year, Michelangelo Pistoletto will celebrate his 90th birthday, a significant achievement for all of us. To commemorate this occasion, Galleria Continua has created a specific project involving its eight locations, each hosting an exhibition by the artist throughout 2023. These exhibitions will celebrate his highlights from the genesis of his career to the present day. The exhibitions are as follows: "I quadri specchianti" at Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, starting from May 27; "Amar las diferencias" at Galleria Continua, Cuba, starting from May 27; "60 ans d'identités et d'altérités" at Galleria Continua, Les Moulins, starting from June 3; "Color and light: the latest works" at Galleria Continua, Roma, starting from June 23; "Segno arte" at Galleria Continua, Paris, starting from June 23; "Il caso" at Galleria Continua, São Paulo, starting from October 28; "QR code possession" at Galleria Continua, Beijing, starting from November 15; and "Il tempo del giudizio" at Galleria Continua, Dubai, starting from November 18. I had the opportunity to visit two of these extraordinary shows.

The first exhibition, "I Quadri Specchianti," covers more than sixty years of Michelangelo Pistoletto's career, showcasing a selection of works from the mid-1950s to his more recent pieces. Some works created by Pistoletto between 1957 and 1958, on display in San Gimignano, hold particular importance in the evolution of his practice. One such work is "Sacerdote" (1957), featuring a frontal figure with geometric stylization reminiscent of the pointed construction of a cathedral against a gold background, typical of iconography.

During the 1960s, in certain works, the human figure is depicted frontally, standing life-size, and dressed anonymously in a jacket and tie. Over time, these figures acquire an increasingly immobile and inexpressive character, resembling prototypes of ordinary human beings. The background, which receives significant attention from the artist, transitions from the repetition of decorative signs to monochrome. Examples of this evolution include "Autoritratto Oro" and "Autoritratto Argento." The latter consists of two panels placed side-by-side: one panel depicts the figure painted on a silver background, while the other is entirely covered by a silver background—an empty space that foreshadows the metal surface of Pistoletto's future mirror paintings, which would reflect the surrounding space.

The Mirror Painting is described as "a self-portrait of the world," as it brings together the observer and the environment, encourages the meeting of opposites, and offers a dual perspective, showing what lies ahead and what is behind. It also creates a virtual space where art and life merge. The exhibition concludes with one of the artist's most recent mirror paintings, "QR Code Possession: Self-Portrait" (2022), depicting the artist covered in "tattoos" of a QR Code with a small symbol of the Third Paradise inside. Pistoletto defines the tattoo as "an ancient method of communication that I use today as an artistic-technological means of communication." "The self-portrait conveys not only my identity but also that of contemporary society within the framework of infinity found in a mirror painting." When scanned, the codes lead users to a series of online materials and videos, including conferences and talks related to his recently published book, "The Formula of Creation," his work at the Fondazione Pistoletto Cittàdellarte in Biella, performances, and much more.

The exhibition presented by Michelangelo Pistoletto in Rome brings together a collection of new works from the "Color and Light" series. This series, which began in 2014, builds upon the concepts introduced in the earlier group of works titled "Black and Light" (which Pistoletto has been working on since 2007) and explores themes that are central to his entire oeuvre. According to the artist, "It seems clear to me that the space in which this reflection takes place is neither limited nor exclusively individual, but it is the cosmic space of the totality and therefore of everyone."

Pistoletto continues, stating that "Breaking the mirror is equivalent to stopping the extension of space and time, and therefore of reality." "This is what happens with the photographic image fixed onto the mirror paintings." In this cycle, Pistoletto introduces a new element to the light mirror and dark mirror: jute. This material reconnects the mirrored surface to the canvas used in his early period as a painter, employing painted jute canvas. These latest works serve as a perfect meeting point between the artist's early research and the experience he has gained throughout the decades of his artistic career.

Pistoletto describes this series by saying, "It is a work of broken mirrors, but in an orderly manner. The outlines produced by breaking the mirror itself are included in the mirror, and these outlines form a puzzle. The large mirror is broken, and each piece takes on its own individuality. The universal figure of the mirror divides and multiplies with the breaking and cutting, becoming an innumerable quantity of single figures. Each fragment of the mirror can be considered a person who is part of a larger mirror, that is, society. Society is like a big mirror."