The Cage

Michelangelo Pistoletto1962

Magazzino Italian Art

Magazzino Italian Art
Cold Spring, United States

Michelangelo Pistoletto composed his first quadri specchianti (mirror paintings) in 1962. 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, to which this work belongs, 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. In 1974 at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, and then again at the Galleria Multipli in Turin in 1975, Pistoletto covered the entire exhibition space with 29 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 in twice: in the form of their reflected selves, detained in the mirror, and in their physical presence in the gallery, surrounded by bars.


  • Title: The Cage
  • Creator: Michelangelo Pistoletto
  • Creator Lifespan: b. 1933
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Date Created: 1962
  • Physical Dimensions: h 231.1, w 125.1 cm
  • Rights: Courtesy Magazzino Italian Art Foundation
  • Medium: Silkscreen print on polished stainless steel

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