A look at the Verità di Michelangelo Pistoletto exhibition

Switzerland’s first anthological exhibition dedicated to Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of Italy’s foremost contemporary artists, has been open to the public since 30 May. In addition to the staff for the over forty works at the Municipal Museum of Modern Art in Ascona, the project includes the installation of a Terzo Paradiso (Third Paradise) in the park at Castello San Materno and one at Monte Verità park. A bona fide artistic itinerary, which we invite you to discover today.

Venere degli stracci & Labirinto

More than an exhibition, it is akin to a journey of discovery taking in three key cultural locations in Ascona. Let’s start at the town centre, at the Municipal Museum of Modern Art, Via Borgo 34. The Michelangelo Pistoletto staff take us through the different rooms spanning seven decades, from 1958 to 2021, showing us the different creative phases of the artist: from the Quadri specchianti (mirror paintings) to the Arte Povera movement, finishing at Segno Arte and Terzo Paradiso.

Michelangelo Pistoletto was born in Biella and grew up in Turin, where he experienced art at a young age by frequenting his father's (who was also an artist) restoration workshop. One defining feature of all Pistoletto's work is the involvement of the viewer. In the Quadri specchianti – at the start of our museum journey – the viewer is automatically involved in the work and this attaches new meanings to the art. It's not just about observing, the viewer participates. And is reflected. In every sense. Next, we find works emblematic of Arte Povera, for example Venere degli stracci (Venus of the rags) (1967), and such installations as the Labirinto (1969), an intricate cardboard labyrinth that doesn’t conceal but instead reveals the exit, with an old historic work at the centre Pozzo- cartone e specchio (well - cardboard and mirror) (1965-66). The next room contains video, photographs, posters of various theatre shows and collections from the seventies demonstrating the artist's desire to take art away from institutions and bring it among the people. Advancing through the years and spaces, we arrive at a large reflective table, which faithfully reproduces the shape of the Mediterranean basin, surrounded by chairs from different countries and cultures (Love Difference - Mar Mediterraneo, 2003).

Quadri specchianti

“Each individual, having a personal feature, has the key to enter through the door into the world of art, a door that opens either onto reserved, intimate, personal space, or onto the space of social encounters”. Doors, windows, mirrors: thresholds presented in a Segno Arte form, two intersecting triangles representing a human body spread out as far as possible.

An entire section of the exhibition is dedicated to Segno Arte, a quest that induced Pistoletto to invite artists from all over the world to create their own segno arte (sign for art). His own piece comprises two intersecting triangles, one above the other, designed to hold a person with legs and arms outstretched. Difficult to explain, but its significance becomes crystal clear. Having completed the museum exhibition tour, we walk through the streets of Borgo di Ascona to the other two sites, where we will find two “terzi paradisi” (third paradises). The first one comprising ninety saplings is in the park of the Castello San Materno museum and will host events throughout the summer. The other one, complete with rocks smoothed by time, takes us to Monte Verità, the hill above Ascona, cradle of the town’s culture.

Sfera di giornali

“I wanted to leave a symbol of Verità (truth) on Monte Verità. The Third Paradise is the regeneration of society, which in this instance comes explicitly from the large rocks smoothed by time that seem to come directly from the ground […] there is a deep affinity, and I wish my Third Paradise […] would become an opportunity for a rebirth to activate the energy of the area.”

Admiring the Third Paradise, bound forever to Monte Verità, involves getting the feel of the park, passing through the Casa del tè (House of tea) with its small but idyllic plantation and walking among the ancient trees to the renovated Elisarion Pavilion. “The Third Paradise that welcomes the procreative belly of a new humanity in the central circle, could not have been better located”. The symbol comprises two contiguous circles at the edges of a central circle reproducing the infinity sign. The two outside circles represent the first paradise (when humankind was at one with nature) and the second paradise (the artificial, man-made one). The central circle represents the equilibrium in the conflict between nature and the artificial world: a new model of a sustainable, democratic and inclusive society. A symbol that, given by the same artist at Monte Verità, assumes a profound significance and casts a clear light on the presence of the exhibition at Ascona. There is a lot to admire about this exhibition, but most of all to live and feel, much like the town where it is located.

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