Skip to main content
Tavolo Mediterraneo Love Difference (Mediterranean Table Love Difference), 2005, by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy) © Michelangelo Pistoletto

Tavolo Mediterraneo Love Difference (Mediterranean Table Love Difference), 2005, by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy) © Michelangelo Pistoletto


Michelangelo Pistoletto: Cittadellarte

November 2, 2010–January 17, 2011

Michelangelo Pistoletto (Italian, born 1933) is widely recognized in Europe as one of its most influential contemporary artists and is increasingly gaining recognition in the United States. This exhibition presents the artist's current work from his interdisciplinary laboratory, Cittadellarte—the name of which implies both a fortified enclave and a city of art. Cittadellarte was founded by Pistoletto in his hometown of Biella, Italy (near Turin) in 1998. There, he developed an institution structured around several autonomous and self-organized offices geared toward a multiplicity of topics such as art, economics, education, politics, ecology, and communication. Indebted to his participatory work of the mid- to late 1960s, Cittadellarte places at the core of these diverse offices and activities Pistoletto's firm commitment to an "art [that is] at the center of a responsible process of transformation of society." Examples of Pistoletto's tables in the shapes of seas from across the globe will be on view. These "mediterranean" tables metaphorically represent the spaces that exist in the "middle of land," places whose in-between character provides a conceptual platform for conversation and exchange across cultures. The Museum will also offer a series of performances, lectures, and workshops that highlight three central concerns of the artistic center: Love Difference, the Caribbean as a "mediterranean" sea, and Sustainability. Michelangelo Pistoletto: Cittadellarte is being held in conjunction with , the artist's first focused survey in the U.S. in more than two decades.

Art's Responsibility

Art's Responsibility—Artist as Sponsor of Thought

— Michelangelo Pistoletto, July 2010

Michelangelo Pistoletto leading a discussion on Progetto Arte in his sculpture master class
at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, c. 1997. © University Archive of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Michelangelo Pistoletto leading a discussion on Progetto Arte in his sculpture master class

at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, c. 1997. © University Archive of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

When I started teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1992, I wrote a brief text to communicate to the students the basic ideas from which I would develop, with them, the course of study and research. I think it is useful to describe those motivations as an introduction to the activities I then gradually developed in Biella, Italy, in a restored industrial building complex that I named "Cittadellarte." Passages from that text resulted in the 1994 Progetto Arte (Project Art) manifesto, which became the basis for the guiding thought behind Cittadellarte itself. Art is responsible for establishing new principles of a harmonious relationship that involves aesthetics and common ethics, a harmony that leads all the elements that compose the social structure back to a "classical" proportion. Art must reveal the possibility of determining the values of a vast equilibrium, emerging from the long "romantic" vicissitudes of progressivism. Art is responsible for a new philosophy based on the comprehension of opposite poles, such as the absolute and the relative. This philosophy corresponds to a different way of conceiving both phenomenological dynamics and fideistic immobility. Art is responsible for taking on the role of a fundamental proposition of thought, namely being the spiritual foundation that informs common existence according to a global concept of being. Art is responsible for revealing the contrast between advanced technology and ancient dogmatic systems, producing a new way of seeing within consciousness. Art is the primary expression of human creativity, thus the constant reference for every structural, technical, economic, and behavioral activity of society. Art must go beyond the limitation of the object, of the so-called artistic product (while considering it to be of fundamental importance), in order to be active in every situation and place of planetary life. Art must bring its unique perceptual sensibility to every system, whether productive, organizational, or political, to carry out the "composition" of the various parts, understood as harmonious elements of the civil concert. The lack of this sensibility is the cause of the sclerosis of every individual organism. Above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums—they must be present in all possible activities. The artist must be the sponsor of thought in whatever endeavor people take on, at every level, from that of the "masses" to that of "command." Between 1992 and 1994, the French director Pierre Coulibeuf created a film that documents my work from this period. In one sequence, filmed inside the space that is now known as Cittadellarte, I stated: My legacy will be an empty space. I was referring not only to the physical space, which was still empty at that point, but to an ideal space symbolically represented by Cittadellarte. In fact, by "empty" I meant the boundless container that is the mirror, which is always filled virtually by every existing thing. Thus Cittadellarte was born, as a platform that mirrors what society presents and reflects.

<i>Divisione e moltiplicazione dello specchio
(Division and Multiplication of the Mirror)</i>,
1975 and 1975–78, by Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Photographs by Paolo Pellion di Persano

Divisione e moltiplicazione dello specchio (Division and Multiplication of the Mirror), 1975 and 1975–78, by Michelangelo Pistoletto. Photographs by Paolo Pellion di Persano

The reference to the mirror obviously evokes my mirror paintings [on view in the Museum's Dorrance Galleries, November 2, 2010–January 16, 2011]. But there is an even more specific relationship between Cittadellarte and the mirror through some of the works I created in the 1970s entitled Divisione e moltiplicazione dello specchio (Division and Multiplication of the Mirror) (right). These works emerged from the specific action of cutting a mirror in half. Each division generates two mirrors, and these then initiate a multiplication of mirrors that reflect each other in succession, reproducing within themselves to the point of infinite numeration. In similar fashion a biological cell divides in two, initiating the progressive cellular multiplication that concludes in the formation of a body. The mirror, physically distinct in addition to being populated with all the images of reality, is articulated in itself so that it re-proposes the generative system of nature. Cittadellarte, initially conceived as a primary nucleus, is divided into two parts that are in turn divided, continuously subdividing and gradually generating a small cosmos of nuclei, among which a tension of magnetic and gravitational fields develops. And this is how Cittadellarte takes shape, reproducing the structural systems of nature, in both a biological and a cosmic sense. In the ideal representation of Cittadellarte, each of these cells or nuclei, however one wishes to refer to them, takes the name of a sector of social life, and these sectors in turn are subdivided into sections, forming innumerable points that constellate the firmament of everyday civil life. It seems to me that with this vision, art might rediscover its universal compresence! Thus Cittadellarte has taken shape proceeding with the identifi cation of different nuclei, each of which has been assigned a name corresponding to a sector of the social fabric. In their totality these nuclei have taken the name Uffizi (loosely translated as "Offices"). The following Uffizi have been established: Art, Education, Ecology, Politics, Economics, Spirituality, Production, Nutrition, Communication, Architecture, and Fashion.

Pistoletto and children during <i>Terzo Paradiso
(Third Paradise)</i>, curated by the Education
departments of Cittadellarte and Castello di
Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art in collaboration
with CiAL—National Consortium
for Recovery and Recycling of Aluminum.
Photograph by P. Zanini courtesy of Cittadellarte-
Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Pistoletto and children during Terzo Paradiso (Third Paradise), curated by the Education departments of Cittadellarte and Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art in collaboration with CiAL—National Consortium for Recovery and Recycling of Aluminum. Photograph by P. Zanini courtesy of Cittadellarte- Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Due to space limitations, I will attempt to be basic and concise in describing the activities of each ufficio (office). But first of all I think it is necessary to indicate the fundamental mission communicated in the publications regarding the Uffizi and their totality: "to inspire and produce responsible change in society through creative ideas and projects." As one will be able to ascertain from my description, each ufficio finds validation in a principal project that clearly expresses its goals. I shall begin with the Art Office: its principal project consists of an annual exhibition, Arte al centro di una trasformazione sociale responsabile (Art at the center of responsible social transformation), first held in 1998. This exhibition is connected to the Minimum Prize, an award assigned to people, groups, companies, or foundations that set up initiatives inherent to sustainable change in society. Obviously this ufficio is actively involved with every other nucleus. The Education Office was also established in 1998 with UNIDEE Università delle Idee (University of Ideas), which welcomes young recent graduates in various disciplines from around the world. Selected through a curriculum and a project that reveal their attitudes, they participate in a five-month residency that includes lectures by instructors and experts in various fields, from art to economics, from politics to communications, from spirituality to social sciences. There are international meetings, practical laboratories, and activities tied to the region. Food and lodging are provided. During the year the Education Office organizes specific courses dedicated to the relationship between art and productive activity. These include Nurope Università Nomade (Nomadic University). The Teaching Office is an offshoot of the Education Office and is concerned with children's education and the development of new teaching methods based on the premises of the Montessori method. Artistic creativity is emphasized, including the establishment of teaching laboratories for schools and for the preparation of teachers. The Ecology Office is also involved with education and, with the Re Mida-Biella (King Midas-Biella) project, focuses specifically on "recycling." It promotes a new way of thinking about ecology through the appreciation of industrial scrap items as objects that can be used for a creative experience that respects the environment. All the other Uffizi, however, simultaneously share the concept of eco-sustainability. In 2002 the Politics Office began an art movement for inter-Mediterranean politics known as "Love Difference." The goal is to create cultural meetings in various Mediterranean countries, seeking to transform violent conflict among different ethnic groups, economies, religions, and political factions into the possibility of peaceful coexistence. In 2008, Love Difference created the Mediterranean Cultural Parliament in Strasbourg in order to expand opportunities for encounter and exchange that were already actively supported. The Economics Office immediately took the name Banca dei Valori Umani (Bank of Human Values), developing research intended to shape a socially responsible economy. The Spirituality Office expresses its identity through the Luogo di raccoglimento multiconfessionale e laico (Place for multi-confessional and laic gathering), which I envisaged and opened in 2000 for the Paoli Calmettes Oncology Institute in Marseille, France. This office is engaged in the development of an ethical dimension based on the laic spirituality of art.

Pistoletto's Love Difference Tables (2003–07) during the exhibition Voltjeti Razlike/ Love differences, Society House of the Croatian Artists, Zagreb, Croatia. Photograph by D. Fabijanic The Production Office has adopted the slogan "Ogni prodotto assume responsabilità sociale" ("Every product assumes social responsibility"). Following this principle, it has established advisory and collaborative relationships with businesses in various production sectors. With the project Cubi in Movimento (Cubes in Motion), it began a direct collaboration among artists, craftspeople, and manufacturers in various regions of Italy. The Nutrition Office started the Km.0 system, a direct distribution chain between producer and consumer, applied in the nourishment of Cittadellarte and in its store. In addition it has opened an in-house fruit and vegetable market that is also patronized by inhabitants of the region. Since 1992 the Communication Office has published the Journal Progetto Arte, which annually documents all of Cittadellarte's activities. It is involved with Internet and Press Office communications, publishing ventures, and the Foundation archive. The Architecture Office has given rise to N.O.V.A. CIVITAS Nuovi Organismi di Vita Abitativa (New Organisms of Residential Life), which restores, designs, and constructs buildings using totally eco-sustainable methods; it also markets natural building materials. The Fashion Office has generated Cittadellarte Fashion B.E.S.T. Bio Ethical Sustainable Trend, a platform for more than fifty Italian manufacturers that produce eco-sustainable textiles and yarns. It also has started to manufacture "items" conceived by fashion designers who use these materials. Many people have presented me with questions: How are the various Uffizi coordinated, and what is the relationship between Cittadellarte and other institutions? How does the Cittadellarte Foundation support itself economically? And finally I am presented with a basic question: Why should art concern itself with all these things? I shall attempt to respond briefly to these legitimate questions. All the Uffizi-nuclei operate according to shared principles and goals, and they develop interrelated research. Technically, Cittadellarte has a central administration that is connected, through various corporate systems, with the specific administrations of the various Uffizi. Through Love Difference, the Political Office has implemented a series of meetings called Metodi (Methods), which function to create a cohesive force within Cittadellarte and a fruitful collaboration with other institutions that have similar goals. In addition to the people in charge of the various Uffizi, participants include artists, sociologists, political figures, economists, philosophers, and educators, who exchange their experiences in researching methods for advancing the transformation of society in a cohesive and practical manner and in accordance with the operational methods that each person or group or entity employs. The laboratory, which has been in operation for some years as part of the Metodi, incorporates ideas and how they are applied to forms. Discussion and comparison lead to an enhancement of the practical possibilities that are necessary for developing and managing a change in the paradigms that govern society.

“Love Difference” workshop for the World
Summit on the Information Society, Palazzo
Dar Bach Hamba, Tunis, Tunisia. Photograph
by F. Fabbrica

“Love Difference” workshop for the World

Summit on the Information Society, Palazzo

Dar Bach Hamba, Tunis, Tunisia. Photograph

by F. Fabbrica

Cittadellarte Store ( in
Biella, Italy. Photograph by Enrico Amici courtesy of
Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Cittadellarte Store ( in

Biella, Italy. Photograph by Enrico Amici courtesy of

Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Cittadellarte’s Cafeteria—Glocal Restaurant,
Biella, Italy. Photograph by M. Rafaniello courtesy of
Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Cittadellarte’s Cafeteria—Glocal Restaurant,

Biella, Italy. Photograph by M. Rafaniello courtesy of

Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Opening of Cittadellarte Fashion, B.E.S.T Bio
Ethical Sustainable Trend, on September 22, 2009. Photograph by Enrico Amici courtesy of
Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Opening of Cittadellarte Fashion, B.E.S.T Bio

Ethical Sustainable Trend, on September 22, 2009. Photograph by Enrico Amici courtesy of

Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

The results are used in a wider framework, outside Cittadellarte, and, at the same time, are practiced within it. Thus an organizational "polis" is developed that is inherent to every specific case but also articulated with every other segment of the general context.

In terms of finances, the cultural activities of the foundation are supported by contributions from the Piedmont region, with which it has an arrangement, and by private and public fellowships set aside for UNIDEE Università delle Idee. Each of the Uffizi is supported by its own initiatives, and indeed the cultural ideal is not limited to the formulation of ideas but is realized through activities that put these very ideals into practice and produce economic returns. I shall respond as concisely as possible to the final and at the same time primary question: why art should concern itself with all this?

<i>Porta-Segno Arte (Door-Segno Arte)</i>, 1976-97,
by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Cittadellarte-
Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy). Photograph
by J. E. Sandoval

Porta-Segno Arte (Door-Segno Arte), 1976-97, by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Cittadellarte- Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy). Photograph by J. E. Sandoval

In 1976 I conceived Segno arte (Art Sign), a geometric form that schematizes a human body, at full scale, with the arms raised and open and the legs spread. It is a symbol that connects back to classical—Roman and Renaissance—cultures. My Segno arte modifies, updates, and, above all, reproportions Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian man figure study, which was based on writings by the classical Roman architect Vitruvius. I simply made two triangles identical in terms of their form and dimension: one delineates the space between the standing figure's legs, the other the space between the raised and open arms. The human figure thus appears perfectly balanced: the lower portion mirrors the upper, the left half mirrors the right, even when divided crosswise, maintaining the navel as the crucial center. In Leonardo's drawing, instead, there is an obvious incongruence between the upper triangle formed between the arms and the lower one delineated between the legs, and thus the disproportion between the parts is clearly visible. The difference between Leonardo's man and the person contained in my Segno arte consists in the fact that the Renaissance artist forced the human body into a pre-established geometric structure (attempting to square the circle), while my geometric form is defined beginning with the human body. Moreover, and significantly, I have replaced the male figure with a female. This is because the mark of the umbilicus, central in Segno arte, is the symbol of life that each person bears, impressed into his or her body, and this natural marking links humanity to the woman through the umbilical cord, which is cut at every birth. This Segno arte constructed on the proportions of the person is in itself my basic project, which is translated into practical and operational reality with the activity of Cittadellarte. Segno arte puts the person at the center of society as a symbol of new equilibrium. Looking at socioeconomic statistics, we understand how far we are from this balanced relationship. In fact we derive an image of human society that can be represented as a misshapen body made from two triangles, a smaller one above, a bit like a head, where wealth and power are concentrated, and the other triangle progressively enlarged downward, where misery and degradation extend. For me, trying to have the extended body of society correspond to the balanced and proportioned body of the person means working toward the realization of a work of art.
Headquarters of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy. Photograph by Enrico Amici

Structures for Progress

Structures for Progress: Pistoletto's Participatory Art and the Emergence of Cittadellarte

Art at the Center

Cittadellarte, Michelangelo Pistoletto's multidisciplinary base in Biella, Italy, is a retrofitted complex of close-knit factory buildings in which an abundance of forward-thinking ideas is centralized around the common nucleus of art. Operating around the notion that "art [is] at the center of a responsible transformation of society,"1 Cittadellarte conceives of art as both a centrifugal and a centripetal force: it is at once a magnet for creative thinking and a propeller of action that reach beyond the forms of art, beyond the walls of Cittadellarte, and to the fabric of society. To this end, Cittadellarte—whose name loosely translates as "city of art" but also implies a citadel or fortress—was formally founded in 1998 and now houses a variety of Uffizi (Offices) dedicated to politics, education, ecology, economics, architecture, and fashion, among other disciplines. Cittadellarte is in many ways the offspring of Pistoletto's own artistic investigations since the 1960s, but it was also conceived in a larger context of contemporary art, which in the 1990s witnessed the development of progressively inclusive structures that tapped into the power and possibilities of participation and collaboration.

Participation through Reflection, 1960s

It is in Pistoletto's early work in which we find a quickly developing interest in the participatory potential of art. As explored in (on view in the Dorrance Galleries), Pistoletto sought in this period to create art that was increasingly inclusive of the viewer, moving from paintings on canvas to his Quadri specchianti (mirror paintings) in 1962. This revelatory moment proved transformative: Pistoletto discovered that the mirroring generated by the surface of polished stainless steel was the perfect way to collapse the temporal and spatial distances between his depicted images (made at one point in time) and the reflection of their viewers (always in the present). The mirror paintings feature figures and objects arranged in neutral compositions that were suggestive of everyday narratives without divulging exact circumstance or meaning. The static nature of Pistoletto's fixed, life-size images, made with painted tissue paper, set up an automatic and instantaneous contrast with the kinetic world of the viewer, who, through reflection, becomes part and parcel of the art object. Since the image of the spectator becomes incorporated into the imagery found on the mirror, any passive presence is turned into active involvement in the experience of the work of art. The mirror paintings, therefore, essentially became Pistoletto's first artistic structure for participation.

Art Takes to the Streets, 1960s–1970s

<b>Fig. A</b> Stills from the film <i>Buongiorno,
Michelangelo (Good Morning,
Michelangelo)</i>, 1968, by Ugo
Nespolo. Courtesy of Cittadellarte-
Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Fig. A Stills from the film Buongiorno, Michelangelo (Good Morning, Michelangelo), 1968, by Ugo Nespolo. Courtesy of Cittadellarte- Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Pursuing his growing interest in including viewers as well as doing away with the hierarchy between art object and participant, Pistoletto staged his first performance, La fine di Pistoletto (The End of Pistoletto) at the Piper nightclub in Turin, Italy, in the spring of 1967. Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture) followed on December 4—the opening day of the exhibition Con-temp-l'azione, which took place in three sites in Turin—as a processional performance in which Pistoletto rolled a newspaper sphere through the streets. In January of 1968, Pistoletto restaged this performance along with his wife, Maria Pioppi; a film by Ugo Nespolo, Buongiorno, Michelangelo (Good Morning, Michelangelo), captures footage from both instances of the performance (fig. A). Constructed with a variety of newspapers, the sphere symbolically referenced and reflected the changing political and social tides of the city, the country of Italy, and the world at large, operating as a momentary time capsule rolling through the present2. Later that month, Pistoletto opened his studio to artists, filmmakers, and poets, turning the site for the production of art objects into a forum for dialogue and creative activity. Relating the act of opening his studio to his earlier investigation of participation through his mirror paintings, Pistoletto has commented, "As I had ‘opened' paintings to the presence and participation of all, why not ‘open' a physical space instead?" 3

<b>Fig. B</b> Lo Zoo and MEV (Musica Elettronica
Viva), <i>Teatro baldacchino</i> (Canopy
Theater), Turin, December 15, 1968.
Photograph by Claudio Abate. Courtesy of
Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Fig. B Lo Zoo and MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva), Teatro baldacchino (Canopy Theater), Turin, December 15, 1968. Photograph by Claudio Abate. Courtesy of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

Pistoletto's Open Studio precipitated the formation of Lo Zoo (The Zoo), a motley street theater troupe composed of people involved in a variety of creative disciplines—art, theater, literature, music—who together staged actions and performances on the streets as well as in theaters, galleries, and other venues throughout Italy. Pistoletto has remarked that "the name ‘the Zoo' referred to our differences and the various languages of art, just as animals are different from each other. Leaving the studio was like leaving the cage."4 Using the spontaneity and openness of collaboration as a kind of newfound freedom, Lo Zoo staged both premeditated performances and spur-of-the-moment actions. Performances such as L'Uomo ammaestrato (The Trained Man) operated around a specific narrative—the story of a man learning about the world for the first time—while some actions were based on improvisations by the performers and musicians working in collaboration with the troupe. In Teatro baldacchino (Canopy Theater), a tented procession through the streets of Turin was a carnival incarnation of a civic parade (fig. B). Pistoletto's impulse to dissolve boundaries between art and performance, artist and audience, structure and spontaneity was part of a larger international trend during this time to unify the stuff of art and life. One of the most vital examples of emerging participatory practices in the United States were Happenings, which had their roots in a 1952 performance at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. There, composer-in-residence John Cage, together with choreographer Merce Cunningham, led a multifaceted orchestration of dance, music, and theatrics in a playhouse while the White Paintings of Robert Rauschenberg hung from the rafters overhead, reflecting light and absorbing shadows of the unruly yet principled action below. Allan Kaprow, one of Cage's students at Black Mountain, was one of the main proponents of Happenings in the United States, and put forth the terms of a Happening as follows: "A Happening, unlike a stage play, may occur at a supermarket, driving along a highway, under a pile of rags, and in a friend's kitchen . . . The Happening is performed according to plan but without rehearsal, audience, or repetition. It is art but seems closer to life."5 While Happenings were often impromptu and unconcerned with storytelling, the fact that a Happening could be acted out anywhere and absorb its audience in the process is quite similar to that of Pistoletto and Lo Zoo, whose performances sought to interrupt the status quo of daily life with the productive disruptions of art.

<b>Fig. C</b> Left to right: Enrico Rava, Morton Feldman, Lionello Gennero, and Pistoletto

Fig. C Left to right: Enrico Rava, Morton Feldman, Lionello Gennero, and Pistoletto

Another significant and traceable influence for Pistoletto is the Living Theatre, which was founded in New York by Julian Beck and Judith Malina in the late 1940s. Prompted by political reasons to leave the United States and tour through Europe as a traveling ensemble, the Living Theatre grew into an experimental collective that explored "a new form of nonfictional acting based on the actor's political and physical commitment to using the theater as a medium for furthering social change."6 While on tour, the members of the group lived together and with other artists they encountered—even taking up residence with Pistoletto in his studio in Turin in the mid-1960s. The impact of this interaction on Pistoletto was immediate, evidenced in the burgeoning theatrical impulse inherent in his use of the studio as a stage for his Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects) in 1966 and, later, the pursuit of a performative desire to engage change and transformation in the urban landscapes infiltrated by the actions of Lo Zoo.

City as Studio, Late 1970s–Early 1980s

<b>Fig. D</b> Gennero and Theatrical Outfit,
“Double Mannequins” performance

Fig. D Gennero and Theatrical Outfit, “Double Mannequins” performance

Between the moment of Lo Zoo (whose final performance was in October of 1970) and today, Pistoletto has continually created art and staged exhibitions that possess social structures with profound participatory and audience-driven components. This approach—which is quintessentially against the notion that art is made and experienced in a vacuum—focuses on the process of creation and the potential for dialogue with the viewer based on the creative act. From the late 1970s into the first years of the 1980s, Pistoletto's art was presented in the United States in a series of exhibitions,7 including Creative Collaboration, which was organized in concert with the City of Atlanta and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

<b>Fig. E</b> Enrico Rava (right) and students
from Atlanta University in an
outdoor jazz performance
© 1979 Cary Cleaver

Fig. E Enrico Rava (right) and students from Atlanta University in an outdoor jazz performance © 1979 Cary Cleaver

In many ways, the Atlanta project epitomized Pistoletto's commitment to proving the fruits of collaboration for society at large. Through the project, which was directly supported and facilitated by Atlanta's Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Pistoletto became an artist-in-residence not just of one institution but of Atlanta itself, so that the "the entire city [became] his studio."8 Pistoletto invited three principal collaborators to join in his efforts: theater director Lionello Gennero (who had participated in Lo Zoo), jazz musician Enrico Rava, and avant-garde composer Morton Feldman (fig. C). Their projects took many forms. Pistoletto created works with local artists in public places, such as Peachtree Plaza; Gennero led the staging of mannequins in the street as a work of public theater (fig. D); Rava worked with university jazz groups and held collaborative concerts (fig. E); and Feldman wrote avant-garde music to which children performed at a local nursing home. Maria Pioppi was also an integral presence, leading workshops and participating in the realization of collaborations overall. The Honorable Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first African American mayor, recognized the civic value of Pistoletto's collaborative attitude in his catalogue statement, noting that Pistoletto "demonstrated that he is as concerned as we are to breaking down the social, cultural, and generational barriers, which too often isolate the main products of cultural life in a city from the vast majority of the people"9 (fig. F).

<b>Fig. F</b> Pistoletto, Maynard Jackson (Atlanta
mayor, 1974-82 and 1990-94),
and Shirley Franklin (Atlanta mayor,
© 1979 Cary Cleaver

Fig. F Pistoletto, Maynard Jackson (Atlanta mayor, 1974-82 and 1990-94), and Shirley Franklin (Atlanta mayor, 2002-10) © 1979 Cary Cleaver

By unifying Pistoletto's collaborative vision and the social fabric of a city and its people, the Creative Collaboration project in Atlanta effectively bridged the artist's interests cultivated by his former Zoo troupe and, arguably, his future endeavors in creating his own "city of art" in the form of Cittadellarte. Pistoletto himself commented on the vital and recognizable connection of these activities to his previous work with Lo Zoo, which "brought together artists from different media as well as people who never previously were involved in art. The group also performed in places not specifically intended for art, such as streets and squares, searching for a larger space for art in social life. The creative collaborations in Atlanta were an extension of that process."10 In many ways, his experiences in Atlanta impressed upon Pistoletto the potential for success of seeking social progress via the energizing force of art.

<b>Fig. G</b> Pistoletto leading discussion in
his sculpture master class at the
Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna,
c. 1997. © University Archive of the
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Fig. G Pistoletto leading discussion in his sculpture master class at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, c. 1997. © University Archive of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Art as Invitation: Pistoletto in Vienna and Relational Art of the 1990s

Twelve years after Creative Collaboration, Pistoletto took a teaching job at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he worked with students from 1992 to 2000. Imagining the dynamic between a teacher and a group of students as analogous to the relationship between a performer and an audience, Pistoletto immediately began thinking of ways to invert this hierarchy. Pistoletto's solution to this problem was to live, work, and teach within the same space. By centralizing the activities of art, communication, and the fabric of daily life—from nourishment to clothing—Pistoletto's experience in Vienna not only anticipated but underlined the development of the groundwork for Cittadellarte, a place where society, economy, politics, production, and consumer awareness would later come together.

<b>Fig. H</b> Franz West leading a sculpture
workshop as part of Pistoletto’s
master class in 1994.
© University Archive of the
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Fig. H Franz West leading a sculpture workshop as part of Pistoletto’s master class in 1994. © University Archive of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Pistoletto's master class in sculpture in Vienna was marked by a participatory structure centered on a Begehungen, a committee-style meeting in which open dialogue fueled critiques and topical discussions among students (fig. G). In addition to encouraging open communication, Pistoletto collaborated with students on a number of exhibitions and invited artists to run workshops on sculpture, performance, and exchange within the building near the Vienna Prater, Böcklinstrasse-Kurzbauergasse. Visiting artists eschewed the academic lecture format and opted to engage the minds, hands, and bodies of students as directly as possible through workshops in which objects were fabricated or actions were performed. Franz West, for example, led a sculpture workshop in 1994 (fig. H), while Guillermo Horta encouraged students to put their bodies in motion during his visit in 1995 (fig. I).

<b>Fig. I</b> Pistoletto observes his students
during a performance workshop
with Guillermo Horta at the
Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna
in 1995. © University Archive of the
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Fig. I Pistoletto observes his students during a performance workshop with Guillermo Horta at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1995. © University Archive of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Elsewhere in Europe during the 1990s, artists began engaging the social dimensions of art with an aim similar to that of Pistoletto in Vienna: to encourage active involvement in art and to turn art forms themselves into socially conscious entities. It was during this decade that a new generation of artists emerged whose individual practices have been retroactively dubbed by philosopher and curator Nicolas Bourriaud as "relational aesthetics." Bourriaud conceptualized relational art as a vehicle for transcending a singular relationship between the art object and viewer and emphasizing interpersonal relationships in which "art is a state of encounter."11 Replacing the art object with a social objective, artists belonging to this rubric according to Bourriaud—Rirkrit Tiravanija, Liam Gillick, and Philippe Parreno, among others—launched art projects in the shape of serving meals, staging social gatherings, placing newspaper ads, and providing spaces such as libraries and resource rooms for interaction and communal experience. As these relational art projects were inherently ephemeral—lasting anywhere between hours, days, or, in some cases, weeks in the forms of meals, discussions, and even makeshift schools—Bourriaud characterized them as interstitial, operating more like interjections into the social realm than easily definable and definitive works of art. Some detractors of this model, like art historian and critic Claire Bishop, dismiss this type of relational art that seemingly neutralizes its political and productive potential by eliding structure and content. To Bishop, the convivial and communal experiences offered by the socially driven platforms of relational art lack a certain kind of antagonism—a tension generated from a lack or loss that can be revealed and examined by a politically engaged art practice.12 Considering relational art in the context of Pistoletto—whose inclusive practice spans from the reconsiderations of art and life of the 1960s–70s to a participatory and interdisciplinary practice in the 1990s as developed in Vienna—it is important to trace a line of continuity while retaining a sense of differentiation between these varying moments, one experimental and the other relational. While they have in common an interest in relinquishing the permanence of objects in favor of gesture and the production of environments that are theatrical, interactive, or ephemeral, Pistoletto's work with Lo Zoo in the 1960s and 1970s was also rooted in a raw, reactive, and spontaneous production that sought to disrupt not only the social but also the aesthetic norm by reacting against the very institutions of art. This oppositional attitude waned in Bourriaud's model, as Bishop suggests, as the 1990s witnessed more coalescence than friction between artistic practice and the institutional systems prescribed for art. For Pistoletto in Vienna, this transformation was also underway, as the transient actions of Lo Zoo and the temporary residence in Atlanta for Creative Collaboration opened up to a new kind of participatory practice that was grounded and centralized in the educative context of the Fine Arts Academy for a ten-year period. While Pistoletto does not ascribe to relational aesthetics per se, he shares the outlook that art and its audience can become a kind of community in which meaning is derived from collective, not individual, experience. He also shares an interest in interdisciplinary practices and the idea that the artist is not just the maker of objects but the catalyst of activity—an idea directly fostered by his time in Vienna in which the open doors of his master class invited thinkers from multiple fields.

From Progetto Arte to Cittadellarte

<b>Fig. J</b>The opening of <i>Habitus-Abito-
Abitare/Progetto Arte</i> at the Academy
of Fine Arts in Vienna, 1997.

Fig. JThe opening of Habitus-Abito- Abitare/Progetto Arte at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, 1997.

In the midst of his experiences in Vienna, Pistoletto wrote a statement in 1994 titled "Progetto Arte" (Project Art) that called for action within a rapidly changing contemporary culture, stating, "the time has come for artists to take on the responsibility of establishing ties among all other human activities, from economics to politics, science to religion, education to behavior—in a word, among the threads that make up the fabric of society."13 Pistoletto initially presented "Progetto Arte" on October 22, 1994, at the Communal Palace in Pistoia, Italy, and subsequently analyzed it in a series of discussions held in multiple cities. It was then explored in an exhibition curated by Bruno Cora titled Habitus, abito, abitare: Progetto arte, at the Pecci Museum in Prato, Italy, that ran from September 1996 through February 1997. The exhibition space consisted of a series of rooms that were inhabited by artists and visionary practitioners of other fields, including sociologists and designers, with events related to the exhibition spread throughout the town. Directly after this, in April 1997, Pistoletto brought the spirit of Progetto Arte to Vienna, where he involved his students in a number of projects and discussions based around the idea that art was not just a vocation of singular interests, but a porous field in which disciplines can come together. There they staged a second part of the exhibition, Habitus-Abito-Abitare/Progetto Arte, in which students responded to the ideas set forth by their discussions of Progetto Arte with works that took the forms of moveable sculptures, markets, and body-based performances (fig. J). The philosophy behind Progetto Arte simultaneously formed the basis of Cittadellarte's mission in the changing artistic and cultural landscape of the 1990s. Responding to his contemporary context, Pistoletto founded Cittadellarte in 1998 with the vision that art is in a position to create an operating structure for sustaining social relationships at a time when technological advances, globalization, and other influences were seemingly causing a rift in their very fabric. From the acquisition of the buildings that would compose Cittadellarte—the former wool factories of Biella, Italy—in 1991 to the offcial founding date of 1998, Pistoletto was deeply involved with Progetto Arte and his master class in Vienna. These served as two foci of the same circle of interests conceptualized and rethought by Pistoletto since his first participatory vision of the 1960s. At the same time, contemporary art itself, through relational art projects elsewhere, was opening up to embrace a broader definition of aesthetic experience through participation.

Cittadellarte Today: Sustaining Collaborative Production

The roadmap from Pistoletto's participatory practices of the 1960s through collaborations of the 1970s and relational art of the 1990s leads until today as Cittadellarte continues to operate in Biella. Working to identify and create structures that apply (not just imply) progressive thought and real-world action, Cittadellarte engages a new kind of community that transcends the interstice of relational aesthetics proposed by Bourriaud nor readily adheres to the model of antagonism suggested by Bishop. As we enter into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the limitations of such an ephemeral and nonpolitically engaged model have been cited by art historians, curators, and thinkers who have continued to offer additional definitions for participatory practices as they are increasingly designed to become more involved than a situational reflection of social bonds. One such proposal is "experimental communities," as put forth by Carlos Basualdo and Reinaldo Laddaga,14 which operate around collaboration and an interdisciplinary structure for art-based projects that, in their complexity, reach beyond themselves through either a lasting temporal or identifiably material impact. Cittadellarte achieves an impact that revolves around the demands of our contemporary moment. The projects of its sundry but purposeful Uffizi engage the public and partner to take on issues of sustainable development, "green" architecture, responsible production of goods, consumer awareness, and the global economy through initiatives and conferences that use dialogue and exchange to arrive at proactive structures in which concerns for social and artistic progress coalesce. However, Cittadellarte's status as a pioneering experiment in regard to relational art practices is embodied not exclusively in its individual projects, but also in the maintenance of its totality as a functional community based on perhaps a new model—that of sustained collaborative production. In this way, Cittadellarte both reflects upon Pistoletto's participatory sensibilities that ignited a passion for including the spectator in the 1960s and evolves in the continually changing context of the arts and the world at large. Notes
1. This phrase has become the working motto for Cittadellarte, and Arte al centro (Art at the Center) is now the name of an annual conference hosted by Cittadellarte on different topics. 2. Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture) originally took place on December 4, 1967, and will be restaged in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 30, 2010. 3. Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with Mirella Bandini, in NAC, Bari, November 1973. 4. Pistoletto, quoted in Andrea Bellini, Facing Pistoletto (Zurich: JRP|Ringier, 2009), p. 53. 5. Kaprow's definition of a Happening first appeared in his Great Bear Pamphlet Some Recent Happenings (New York: Something Else Press, Inc, 1966), p. 3. 6. See 7. Additionally, Mirror-Works was exhibited at the Institute for the Arts, Rice University in Houston, and Furniture Environments was featured at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens. 8. Gail Centini. "Michelangelo Pistoletto in Atlanta." January 25, 1979. City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural and International Affairs. (Press Release). 9. The Honorable Maynard Jackson, "Creative Collaboration with the City of Atlanta," in Michelangelo Pistoletto (The Meriden Gravure Company: Meriden, CT, 1983), p. 21. 10. Pistoletto in Dave Hickey, "A Voice in the Mirror: Critical Reflections in the I/Eye of the Artist," Michelangelo Pistoletto (The Meriden Gravure Company: Meriden, CT, 1983), p. 9. 11. Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Les Presse Du Reel, Franc: Dijon, France, 1998), p. 18. 12. See Claire Bishop, "Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics," October, Vol. 110 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 51–79, and "The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents," Artforum, February 2006, pp. 179–185. 13. Michelangelo Pistoletto, "Incontro-manifesto. Progetto Arte," artist's statement published in the invitation card to the meeting at the Communal Palace of Pistoia for October 22, 1994. The full "Progetto Arte" text was later published in German in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard (May 30, 1995) and then in the catalogue for Le porte di Palazzo Fabroni, an exhibition in Pistoia, on November 18, 1995. 14. Carlos Basualdo and Reinaldo Laddaga, "Experimental Communities," in Communities of Sense (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2009), pp. 199–214.

Walking Sculpture

Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture) with Michelangelo Pistoletto

Saturday, October 30, 2010 1:30 p.m. Procession departed from the Museum's West Entrance.
2:00 p.m. Rittenhouse Square
2:30 p.m. City Hall
3:00 p.m. Rodin Museum In 1967, Pistoletto rolled a giant ball of newspapers through the streets of Turin. In the fall of 2010, Pistoletto rolled a contemporary replica of the newspaper sphere by Spiral Q Puppet Theater out of the Museum and onto the streets of Philadelphia. The procession made its way along major streets in the city with a few special stops along the way.


Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture) with Michelangelo Pistoletto



The exhibition was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and MAXXI---Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome.

Community Partners

Cittadellarte programs in Philadelphia were developed by the Museum's Division of Education in collaboration with Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy. The Museum thanks the following schools and community partners for their invaluable participation: Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University (Photography Program), Art Sanctuary, basekamp, Big Picture Alliance, Cinema Studies Program at University of Pennsylvania, Curtis Institute of Music, Delphi After School Art Club* (General John F. Reynolds School, General Louis Wagner Middle School, Martha Washington School, Potter-Thomas School, Russell Byers Charter School, and Thomas K. Finletter School), Esperanza Academy Charter High School, First Person Arts, Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, Philadelphia Center for the Book, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Philly Stake, Relâche, Slought Foundation, Spiral Q Puppet Theater, Taller Puertorriqueño, and Tyler School of Art, Temple University (Interdisciplinary Seminar).

Main Building


The exhibition is made possible by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, and by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions. Additional support is provided by Galleria Lia Rumma, Le Méridien Hotels, and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin; by Christie's, Luhring Augustine, Galleria Christian Stein, and Simon Lee Gallery; by Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Lynne and Harold Honickman, Jane and Leonard Korman, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and Sankey and Connie Williams; and by the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, and Jaimie and David Field.


Carlos Basualdo • The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator ofContemporary Art

Check out other exhibitions

View full calendar