Magazzino Italian Art, the museum and research centre in Cold Spring, New York, has opened Welcome to New York!, a survey show by Michelangelo Pistoletto to celebrate the artist’s 90th birthday. In addition, the museum unveiled a permanent land piece, Terzo paradiso, that has come to fruition after 20 years of patiently waiting for circumstances that match the ethos of the conceptual work and reflects the decades-long relationship between the artist and Magazzino’s founders, Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu.
Terzo paradiso (Third paradise) is a manifesto that takes the form of an infinity symbol with an extra circle in its centre. The circles on opposite ends represent the natural and the artificial, with the central sphere balancing the two and symbolising rebirth and a sustainable future. Olnick and Spanu became ambassadors of Terzo paradiso shortly after it was conceived in 2003, and Magazzino followed in 2017, but they had not found the right moment to give it physical form.
While excavating for the foundation of a new building opening in September, the team uncovered several uniform boulders, each measuring one meter in circumference. Magazzino then learned that the site had formerly been a quarry. “I knew we had to keep the boulders,” Spanu says. “They had been used in road construction many years ago, so their purpose was to create a new future. That stuck out to me, as it is one of the messages of Pistoletto’s Terzo paradiso, as well as the reason why we were excavating in the first place—to create a new building.”
When they found enough boulders, the piece was constructed on an incline in the hill overlooking Magazzino so visitors can see it from the ground. “The stones represent the natural, and the way they were found through human intervention and excavation is the artificial,” Spanu says. “The third circle, what makes it Terzo paradiso, is a rebirth, just as our new building is a rebirth, but there is no rebirth without birth, and that’s what you see inside the museum, the backstory to how we got here today with Pistoletto.”
This backstory is told throughout Welcome to New York!. In the lobby is the 2007 wall sculpture Stracci Italiani (Italian rags), which is made of rags to resemble an Italian flag. Pistoletto created the work for the Olnick Spanu Art Program, the couple’s artist residency that ran from 2005 to 2015 and was their first foray into bringing Italian art to upstate New York. The exhibition title, Welcome to New York!, is borrowed from a 1979 sculpture on view that is a nod to this international exchange and features a stream of colourful rags below a crown resembling that on the Statue of Liberty.
Also marking a cross-cultural vision is Sfera di giornali (Sphere of newspapers), a large ball made of newspapers. Part of a series, the first sphere was created in 1966 to raise awareness of the working conditions of metalworkers in Torino and was then rolled through the city. Olnick and Spanu purchased a version of the work made in 1996 to support Festival dei Due Mondi, the international cultural event in Spoleto and abroad that was created to connect the two sides of the Atlantic. When Magazzino was founded, Pistoletto asked Olnick and Spanu to save newspapers announcing the museum to create another version of Sfera di giornali.
“I said ‘Michelangelo, no one is talking about Magazzino,’” Spanu says. “But he told me, ‘They will,’ and he was right. He created a new piece out of those announcements and re-enacted the Torino performance through the streets of Cold Spring and the whole community joined.”
Reflecting the couple’s donation to Spoleto, Pistoletto donated this new version of Sfera di giornali to the museum. The work is on view alongside several of the artist’s iconic Quadri specchianti (Mirror paintings) that feature collaged and silkscreened life-size cutouts, including one with an image of the sphere.
“Pistoletto represents many chapters of Magazzino and we’re honoured he is part of our next chapter with the story of the new pavilion,” Spanu says. “We installed the show and Terzo paradiso a month ago, but we officially unveiled it on June 25 because that was Pistoletto’s 90th birthday, so I like to think we’re a part of this chapter for him as well.”
- Welcome to New York! is on view through early summer 2024, Terzo paradiso is on view permanently