Division and Multiplication of the Mirror -
Art Takes On Religion
In 1977 Pistoletto places a mirror on the altar of the church of San Sicario, a mountain village where the artist periodically lives. A picture of this action appears on the poster and on the cover of the catalogue of his exhibition called Division and Multiplication of the Mirror. Art Takes On Religion, which takes place at Galleria Persano in Turin in March 1978. Through his works, actions and discussions with the public during this exhibition and two texts published on its catalogue, Pistoletto announces and presents two basic directions along which he will develop his work.
The first direction - Division and Multiplication of the Mirror - arises from the artist’s realization that a mirror can reflect anything except itself. However, by dividing the mirror in two and gradually shifting the two sides at an angle along the axis of its division, the mirror can be made to multiply. This phenomenon forms the basis of a new series of works drawing attention to the principle of division as a universal element of organic development and, on a social level, of sharing as a logic alternative to accumulation and exclusion.
The second direction - Art Takes On Religion - constitutes a first attribution of centrality to art, in regard to other fields of human activitity and knowledge, which Pistoletto will later develop with his Project Art (1994) and later on with the founding of Cittadellarte. It also represents the beginning of a reflection on the relation of art and spirituality, which he will further explore in some of his works such as Multireligious and Secular Place of Meditation (2000), The Time of Judgment (2009) and in his text Omnitheism and Democracy (2012).

“I cut the mirror together with its frame, so that the two halves of the frame, sticking to the two mirrors, testified to their original oneness. A series of works and operations on the divided mirror followed in different places and environments, from Corpus Christi in the United States, to Aalborg in Denmark. At the same time, my cooperative work, begun in 1967 with the poster for my studio opening, continued. Thus, the theoretical and factual side of my work proceeded along parallel lines. The mirror stood for the theoretical side, cooperation stood for the factual one. My individuality, compared to the singularity of the mirror, was divided and multiplied when I created with someone else, just as the mirror is divided and multiplied…
At San Sicario … I placed a mirror, where usually there was a painting, in a baroque frame on the altar of the church. Thus, just as in the early sixties I replaced canvas with mirrors on the walls of houses, art galleries, and museums, here, I replaced the canvas on the altar with a mirror…. At the beginning of our century, the avant-garde made art again autonomous. Art ceased to be a symbol of religious and political power, but it is still far from the people, because its autonomy regards only its aesthetic side. Now art must find autonomy for its factual side as well…. ‘Art takes on religion’ means that art actively takes possession of those structures, such as religion, which rule thought; not with a view to replacing them itself, but in order to substitute them with a different interpretative system, a system intended to enhance people’s capacity to exert the functions of their own thought” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, Divisione e moltiplicazione dello specchio – L’arte assume la religione, Galleria Persano, Turin 1978).

In 1978 Pistoletto began a year-long residency at DAAD (the German academic exchange service) in Berlin. During this time the Nationalgalerie showed a group of his mirror paintings interspersed with works from the museum’s permanent collection. Thirteen of his other works were scattered in thirteen public places around the city. At Schweinebraden Gallery, in East Berlin, Pistoletto showed up at the opening of his exhibition An Island in Time dressed as a seventeenth-century gentleman. Here he also exhibited the design of a bridge, which became the logo of Creative Collaboration, carried out by Pistoletto in the United States the following year.

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Crone of Mirrors, 1973-1976
Art Takes On Religion, 1977
Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1978
Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1978
Division and Multiplication of the Mirror - Art Takes On Religion, 1978
The Form of the Mirror,
1975-1978
Art Takes On Religion, 1978
Art Takes On Religion, 1978
Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1978
Division and Multiplication of the Mirror, 1975-1978
Broken Mirror, 1978
Drawing of the Mirror, 1979
The Cage of the Mirror,
1978-1982
Mirror-Cage, 1973-1992
Mirror-Cage, 1973-1992
Mirror-Cage, 1973-1992
Mirror-Cage, 1973-1992
Mirror-Cage, 1973-1992
Mirror-Cage, 1973-1992
Twentytwo Less Two, 2009
Twentytwo Less Two, 2009
Twentytwo Less Two, 2009
 MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO
Works