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Portfoliobox of the Month: Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Minus Objects

James Lucey

Art reflects who we are. In his lifetime, Michelangelo Pistoletto has taken huge risks with his work and has never been afraid to change. Spanning an artistic gamut of painting, sculpture, and performance art, Pistoletto has a tremendous creative repertoire to his name. Consequently, audiences and gallery-goers around the world have seen themselves in his work- quite literally. To honor Michelangelo Pistoletto and to commemorate his work, Luhring Augustine, New York released a custom clamshell portfolio of one of his most important works, Minus Objects.

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Michelangelo Pistoletto began his career over sixty years ago. From the outset, he was eager to experiment with materials and style. Early in his career, he was hailed as a champion of the Arte Povera movement, combining classical sculpture with everyday objects to blur the stratospheres of the hierarchy of art. But it was a series of paintings on mirrors (Quadri specchianti) that first gained Pistoletto notoriety. These mirror paintings would become a hallmark of the Italian master’s work, and appropriately, one such piece is also the focal point of this custom portfolio box.

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This clamshell portfolio is a distillation of the Michelangelo Pistoletto experience. A contrasting combination of materials and techniques itself, the Minus Objects portfolio is an appropriate encapsulation of the series. It was this anthology of disparate objects created between 1965 and 1966 that garnered Pistoletto his greatest acclaim. Each work is a distinct representation, completely unlike its siblings in the series. A cardboard rose, a photographic portrait, and a spherical iron sculpture comprise just some of the collection. The silhouette of a wooden sculpture representing a lunch counter is portrayed on the front of the portfolio.

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The box opens to reveal a mirrored surface with a modern twist – a cell phone painted on the surface, poised to snap a photo with one of Pistoletto’s works in frame. It’s a tongue in cheek indictment of modern gallery culture to be sure. The mirror painting dominates the interior space of the portfolio and comes as a delightful surprise to anyone lucky enough to handle the box.

Our biggest challenge, and ultimately our biggest triumph with this clamshell portfolio, was accommodating that mirror.
Revealing the mirror was simple enough; open the box, and there it is. But keeping it in place, properly protecting it, and minimizing the amount of handling was more difficult. So, a special platform was added to fit the mirror with the utmost precision. This platform was a feat of design developed by Portfoliobox. The mirror has a recessed hollow on the back of the piece, and so the platform was engineered to adhere exactly to those dimensions.

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This accomplishes two functions. First, this platform holds the mirror in place and restrains it from traveling inside the portfolio. Second, it minimizes handling. When the mirrors first arrived, we were provided with a pair of gloves as not to tarnish the flawless reflective surface. The gloves would have to be administered whenever touching or removing the mirror. But, the addition of the interior platform allows access to the sides and bottom of the mirror, eliminating the need to grab the piece from the top and risk smudging the surface.

portfolio, art portfolio, michelangelo pistoletto, minus objects

This deluxe clamshell portfolio resounds in regal blue Iris bookcloth. The Minus Objects design on the front panel was achieved through a blind deboss, while yellow matte pigment foil stamping adorns the spine. The interior cavity beneath the mirror holds a commemorative book celebrating Pistoletto’s Minus Objects series. A ribbon pull was added for ease of access to the collateral.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with Luhring Augustine many times, but this project was especially noteworthy. This portfolio is a gallery experience unto itself. A distinct work of art at the center, the box has all the trappings necessary to inform a Pistoletto experience in miniature. Distinct designs, a comprehensive book, and an unmistakable mirrored artwork come together to create an exceptional portfolio box.

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