Welcome to New York!

June 20, 2023

Installation view of Welcome to New York! at Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring, NY. Photo by Marco Anelli / Tommaso Sacconi
Installation view of Welcome to New York! at Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring, NY. Photo by Marco Anelli / Tommaso Sacconi.

Magazzino Italian Art Announces Welcome to New York!

Magazzino Italian Art | 2700 Route 9, Cold Spring, NY

Magazzino Italian Art is pleased to announce its six-year anniversary on June 25, 2023, marked by the unveiling of a special project dedicated to the renowned artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. This date coincides with Maestro Pistoletto’s 90th birthday, making it a truly momentous occasion for both the artist and the museum.

Pistoletto’s presence in the Olnick Spanu Collection and his significant contributions to the history of Magazzino resonate throughout the galleries of the museum. For the inaugural opening of Magazzino, the museum unveiled Stracci italiani (Italian Rags, 2007), a work that was commissioned to commemorate the anniversary of Italy’s unification. The tricolor Italian flag made of discarded fabric greets visitors upon entering the lobby. In 2017, Magazzino acquired Sfera di giornali (Newspaper Sphere), a sculpture composed during a reinvention of Pistoletto’s performance Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture) staged throughout the entire Cold Spring community.

Beginning with Michelangelo Pistoletto’s works from the Olnick Spanu Collection, Magazzino is launching an annual project that will focus on each of the twelve artists associated with the Arte Povera movement. To inaugurate this project, Magazzino is thrilled to present Welcome to New York!, whose title is derived from a 1979 work by Pistoletto. Welcome to New York (1979) will be displayed for the first time in Gallery 8, alongside seven representative mirror works spanning from the 1960s to the 2000s. This immersive experience offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the evolution of the artist’s visionary works.

Welcome to New York draws inspiration from the Statue of Liberty with its metal crown and multicolored rags cascading towards the ground—encapsulating and embracing the concept of multiculturalism and diversity. These elements symbolize the possibilities of growth and evolution, embodying the values of welcome and inclusivity associated with the United States.

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the birth of Pistoletto’s manifesto Terzo paradiso (Third Paradise, 2003), Magazzino will also unveil the monumental permanent installation, Terzo paradiso, situated on the museum’s grounds. Realized with 46 stones excavated during the construction of the new Robert Olnick Pavillon, this installation reflects the deep commitment of Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu, the Co-founders of Magazzino Italian Art, to act as ambassadors of Third Paradise.

About Michelangelo Pistoletto

Beginning as a painter in the mid-1950s, Michelangelo Pistoletto entered a new phase in his work in 1962 with the creation of his internationally celebrated Quadri specchianti (Mirror Paintings): his ongoing series of highly polished, stainless steel panels, upon which he transferred photographic life size pictures of everyday figures or objects, first pasting on the reflecting surface pictures painted on tissue paper obtained from the photographic source, later through serigraphy. With his Mirror Paintings, Pistoletto went beyond traditional conventions of painting, setting in motion an exploration of the boundaries of art and experience. This approach gave rise to his experimentation in creative collaborations, which Pistoletto first pursued with his street theater group, Lo Zoo (The Zoo). Pistoletto’s work continues to investigate the relationship between art and life, the nature of time, ethics and aesthetics, and art as a platform for social transformation. This vision inspired Pistoletto to found Cittadellarte in Biella in 1998, a foundation whose name means both “city of art” and “art citadel,” with the aim of inspiring and producing responsible change in society through ideas and creative projects.

List of works

Gallery 8

Sfera di giornali
Silkscreen print on polished stainless steel

Michelangelo Pistoletto is perhaps best known for his series Quadro specchiante (Mirror Paintings). First made in 1962, these works are composed of polished stainless steel panels—purchased at local industrial supply stores—that were collaged, and later silkscreened, with life-size cutouts of everyday subjects and objects. These pieces established the theoretical framework for the artist’s practice: a relational dimension defined by the phenomenological exchange between work, exhibition space, and viewer. For each Quadro specchiante, Pistoletto provides a date range spanning from the work’s conceptualization to its realization.

Since 1971, the artist has used silkscreen printing techniques as it is a reproduction process that is impersonal but not completely mechanical. Placing his figures between the real space of the display and the virtual space of the mirror, the viewer registers their own reflection alongside the figures of the painting—connecting art and life. In Sfera di giornali (Newspaper Sphere, 1962-2009) the artist reproduced an image of his 1966 performance of the same name in which he rolled a large sphere of squashed newspapers around the streets of Turin, engaging with passers-by. It was one of the most important artistic interventions of the time and a natural endpoint to Pistoletto and other Arte Povera artists’ aspiration to bring art closer to life.

Sfera di giornali
Pressed newspapers with polystyrene core

Pistoletto created the first Sfera di giornali in 1966 as part of his series Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects, 1965–1966), a heterogeneous series of sculptural objects composed of everyday, inexpensive, or otherwise readily available materials. As a series of unrepeatable moments, Minus Objects testified to the artist’s view of time. Composed from pressed newspapers, the sphere was conceived as a physical articulation of the dynamic between the constantly changing events of everyday life. At the end of 1967, Pistoletto repurposed the sphere; he removed it from the studio and rolled it between three galleries in Turin, entitling the action Scultura da passeggio (Walking Sculpture).

Since 1967, Walking Sculpture has been reenacted several times around the world using local newspapers surrounding the performance date. In November 2017, Pistoletto restaged the performance in Cold Spring, New York, on the occasion of the inaugural opening of Magazzino Italian Art. After the performance, Pistoletto generously donated the sphere to the museum’s collection.

Art International (Ritratto di Maximilian von Stein)
Painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel

Art International (Ritratto di Maximilian von Stein) depicts the son of the visionary gallerist Margherita Stein reading Art International, one of the most influential international art magazines of the 1960s. Pistoletto began by selecting the figure from a photograph, enlarging it to life-size, and tracing its outline from the projected enlargement. He then cut out and hand-painted the figure after he affixed the tissue paper to the steel surface. The piece exemplifies the artists’ effort to go beyond the traditional practice of painting, developing a technique that he perfected in the 1960s to achieve objectivity in his quasi photographic representations—merging the real and the virtual.

Autoritratto con quaderno
Silkscreen print on polished stainless steel

In the mirror painting Autoritrattto con quaderno (Self-portrait with Notebook), the artist silkscreened an image of himself looking at his quaderno, a notebook in which he recorded his personal thoughts and ideas. The audience sees their own reflection in the highly polished stainless steel, they are invited to stand alongside the artist as he reflects on his ideas. The figure retains a pictorial quality that evokes the artist’s paintings of the early 1960s, in which he experimented with large fields of highly reflective paint, leading him to the creation of the mirror paintings.

Ragazza appoggiata
Silkscreen print on polished stainless steel

Ragazza appoggiata (Girl Leaning) explores the act of seeing and being seen, which is at the core of the artistic experience and a crucial element in Pistoletto’s Quadri specchianti. By looking at the work, the observer emulates the act of contemplation in which the girl is absorbed, while being able to see their image in the work, thus producing a mirroring effect of poses and gazes emphasized by the reflective properties of stainless steel. The hyper-realistic effect of the figure depicted, achieved by the artist through life-size dimensions and photographic reproductions, blurs the boundaries between the real world and the space of artistic representation. Pistoletto combines some of the principles underlying traditional painting, such as figuration and perspective, with a new idea of art based on participatory practices and a performative approach.

Welcome to New York
Iron and cloth rags

Welcome to New York was first exhibited at Giuliana De Crescenzo Gallery in Rome in 1980 for his solo show Michelangelo Pistoletto and later included in Division and Multiplication of the Mirror held at MoMA PS1 in New York in 1988. The metallic structure with cascading rags evokes the crown of the Statue of Liberty, referring to the symbolic role that the colossal sculpture acquired for millions of immigrants arriving in the United States in the hope of finding better living conditions. Though a literal reading of the rags might suggest an association with poverty, Pistoletto employed these discarded clothes—presented in a wide range of colors and patterns—to celebrate the encounter and merging of different cultures. These rags, initially used by the artist to polish his Quadri specchianti (Mirror Paintings), appear in other seminal works, including Venus of the Rags, as well as in the performances of the artist’s street-theater group Lo Zoo (The Zoo).

Adamo ed Eva
Silkscreen print on polished stainless steel

Adamo ed Eva depicts two nude figures on two panels. While the figures and dual panels evoke Judeo-Christian ideas about the origins of humankind, according to Pistoletto, these works are meant to depict “the self-portrait of the world, open to the participation of everybody.”

La gabbia
Silkscreen on polished stainless steel in four parts

In 1974, in the midst of a period of sociopolitical unrest in Italy known as the Years of Lead, Pistoletto made a subset of Mirror Paintings focusing on themes of detention, persecution, and state power. The motif of the cage first appeared in Pistoletto’s practice in the late 1960s, during his work with his street theater and performance group Lo Zoo (The Zoo). “The Zoo,” the group wrote, “means those who are on the other side of the bars.” The motif evoked ideas of the late 1960s counterculture that criticized authoritarianism and capitalist culture. For La gabbia (The Cage)—first presented in 1974, at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, and again in 1975, at the Galleria Multipli in Turin— Pistoletto covered the entire exhibition space with twenty-nine mirror paintings, each of them depicting an identical section of iron bars. Seen together, these works created a phenomenological effect for viewers who found themselves caged twice: first in the form of their reflected selves, detained in the mirror, and then in their physical presence in the gallery, surrounded by bars.

Uomo che fugge lo specchio
Polished stainless steel, plaster, and fiberglass

Pistoletto has been passionate about classical sculpture since his childhood; at the age of fourteen he acquired a wooden sculpture—the first piece of a collection that would grow over the years. His use of plaster casts of classical sculptures would appear throughout works from the 1970s including Uomo che fugge lo specchio (Man Fleeing from the Mirror, 1971), in which a classical sculpture is placed in a room near a mirror hanging on the wall. Whereas with the Quadri specchianti (Mirror Paintings) figures of everyday culture are silkscreen printed onto polished stainless steel, in this series casts of ancient sculptures spill out into real space, creating a heightened contrast and dialectical relationship between the present age and antiquity, contingency and the atemporal realm, and vision and the reflected image.


Stracci italiani
Cloth rags mounted on board

Commissioned by Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu as a guiding star for the ten Italian artists who took part in The Olnick Spanu Art Program in Garrison, Stracci italiani (Italian Rags) was promised as a gift to Magazzino Italian Art in 2011, a year that marked the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Turin was the center of the Risorgimento, a cultural and political movement that had a crucial role in the unification process of the peninsula under one flag, and became the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Just over a hundred years later in the 1960s, the city became the epicenter of Arte Povera.

The work is a reinterpretation of the tricolor Italian flag composed of discarded rags which commemorate the unification of Italy. While Pistoletto’s original use of repurposed rags was to polish his stainless steel mirror paintings, over the course of his career rags have come to represent larger ideological significance as a critique of capitalist society and disposable culture.

On June 25th, 2017, on the occasion of the opening of Magazzino Italian Art and Pistoletto’s birthday, Stracci Italiani was installed in the lobby of the museum as an emblem of a country whose enlightened public understood that by unifying the individual seven states a unique cultural nation would form—positively impacting citizens’ lives. As an extension of a unified national identity, the twelve Arte Povera artists represented at Magazzino exemplify a united cultural nation of Italy.

Love Difference
Foosball table

Designed by Michelangelo Pistoletto in collaboration with artist and designer Diego Paccagnella, this work invites visitors’ active participation by encouraging them to play foosball as a means of experiencing art in a live and interactive dimension. The playing field is a reflective surface depicting an outline of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, populated by twenty-two players wearing the national soccer team jerseys of countries in the Mediterranean basin. As the title Love Difference indicates, the work is a celebration of the vitality and richness of cultural diversity. Rejecting its association with competition and individuality, Pistoletto promotes sport as a unifying force based on togetherness and collaboration, team spirit and cultural integration. Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu commissioned the work to be black and blue, the colors of the Football Club Internazionale Milano, more commonly known as Inter Milan. A different version of the work was presented on the occasion of the first match of the 2010-2011 Italian Football League season at the Olympic Stadium in Rome—a performance broadcasted live by RAM-Radioartemobile.


Terzo paradiso

In 2003, Pistoletto wrote his manifesto Terzo Paradiso (Third Paradise) and created a symbol to illustrate this new phase of his artistic research. Inspired by the mathematical sign depicting the concept of infinity, composed of two intertwined circles which, according to the artist, represent the opposite poles of nature and artifice, Pistoletto added a third circle of greater dimensions in the middle, connecting these two realms. Terzo Paradiso symbolizes a new age in which everyone is encouraged to assume personal responsibility for a global vision, building a new society where natural and artificial worlds come together harmoniously. Installed outdoors, the work expands the original meaning of ‘paradise,’ described as a protected garden in Ancient Persian. The work was realized on Magazzino’s grounds with 46 rocks, one meter in diameter, excavated from the construction area of the Robert Olnick Pavilion. As Pistoletto stated: “We are the gardeners who must protect this planet and heal the human society inhabiting it.” Terzo Paradiso has also developed into a collaborative global project with a number of embassies engaged in social and human development. Through a profound ethical commitment, the artist welcomed recreations of the symbol around the world in order to spread the ideals it represents. Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu are ambassadors of the Third Paradise.

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