Lot 50
  • 50

Michelangelo Pistoletto

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Michelangelo Pistoletto
  • Scultura di Chamberlain
  • signed, titled and dated 65 on the reverse
  • painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel
  • 47 1/4 by 39 3/8 in. 120 by 100 cm.


Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, Turin
Private Collection, Italy
Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above in 1978)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Venice, Galleria del Leone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, June 1966
Milan, Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, November 1966 
Genoa, Galleria La Bertesca, Michelangelo Pistoletto, December 1966 - January 1967, n.p., illustrated (with Gian Enzo Sperone in installation at Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, 1966)
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Michelangelo Pistoletto, April - May 1967 


Alberto Boatto, Pistoletto: Dentro e fuori lo specchio, Rome, 1969, n.p., no. 2, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art (and travelling), Michelangelo Pistoletto: From One to Many, 1956-1974, 2010, p. 224, fig. 182, illustrated (with Gian Enzo Sperone in installation at Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, 1966)

Catalogue Note

Created in 1965, Scultura di Chamberlain is a refined paradigm of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s iconic Mirror Paintings – a striking paragon of that ambiguous threshold between art and reality that is so characteristic of Pistoletto's most important works. Depicting one of John Chamberlain’s iconic sculptures, it poses fundamental questions on the nature of art and the role of the artist. Furthermore, it is testament to Pistoletto’s ascent onto the international art scene and his formative relationship with the dealer Ileana Sonnabend. Following the first show of his Mirror Paintings at the Galleria Galatea, Turin, in April 1963, Pistoletto travelled to Paris, where he met the American gallerist Ileana Sonnabend. Thinking back to his first exhibition and the decisive meeting with Sonnabend, Pistoletto recalled: “I realized there wasn’t any sort of assent or interest around me: in fact there was a certain nervousness and rejection, mainly by the gallery owner himself. So I took a trip to Paris. There I met Beppe Romagnoni who told me about a gallery where strange and interesting paintings were being shown. So I dropped by the Sonnabend Gallery and asked to see these paintings. In this way I first saw Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein’s paintings, and Segal and Chamberlain’s sculptures. They asked me if I was a critic and I said, no, I’m an artist. When asked what I did, I showed them the Galatea catalogue and a painting. They were struck by the work and came to Turin where they bought up the whole Galatea show. They took over the contract with Tazzoli and a situation developed that was extremely important for me: from my isolation in Turin, I was catapulted into an international dimension.” (The artist in an interview with Germano Celant in Germano Celant, Pistoletto, Florence 1984, p. 26) Appropriating its image from a source photograph reproduced on the cover of the 1964 Venice Biennale, Scultura di Chamberlain is one of only two versions of Pistoletto's rendering of a Chamberlain sculpture, the other of which is housed in the collection of the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa.

Firmly installed in the pantheon of Europe’s most influential contemporary artists, Pistoletto’s dialogic Mirror Paintings defy categorization, oscillating between spectacle and sculpture, photograph and performance. Frustrated with the imitative relationship between traditional painting and reality, the artist first experimented with a reflective ground in 1960 with a series of self-portraits on a shiny surface; later that year and into 1961, Pistoletto refined his process by substituting the glossy ground for a highly polished stainless steel one, onto which he pasted finely rendered photo-realist images that were painted on tissue paper. While toying with the dominant Pop aesthetic of the time, Pistoletto was also influenced by Italian artists such as Lucio Fontana. Indeed, the essence of Fontana’s Spatialist Manifesto, to refute the traditional parameters of two-dimensional painting and create a space in which the viewer actively explores the possibilities of art, is echoed in Pistoletto’s phantasmagorical Mirror Paintings. Extending the canvas by introducing a reflective surface, he examines and unravels the distortive illusionism of perspective. Masterfully appropriating the language of trompe l’oeil to entirely subvert it, the Mirror Paintings position themselves within a grand artistic tradition of mirrors such as Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère or The Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez. What distinguishes Pistoletto’s works is a theatrical dramaturgy that infuses these pieces with rich performative aspects, naturally in flux through the constantly changing angle of the viewer.

As with the best of Pistoletto’s Mirror PaintingsScultura di Chamberlain elegantly engages the viewer and deftly manipulates the traditional role of the picture plane. What makes the present work stand out is its distinct dialogue with the work of Pistoletto’s American contemporary. It posits this work at the very brink of Pistoletto’s own ascent to international fame amongst an international legion of Pop Artists, whilst engaging with some of the key tenents of his practice: citation, authorship, reality and illusion.