Born in Biella, in the Piedmont region of Italy, Michelangelo Pistoletto worked under his father in Turin from 1947 to 1958 as a painting restorer. During the 1950s he made figurative paintings, including a number of self- portraits.
In 1959, Pistoletto participated in the Biennale di San Marino and his first solo exhibition was held in the year that followed at the Galleria Galatea in Turin. Pistoletto had his first solo exhibition in the United States at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In 1967 he won the Belgian Art Critic’s Award and a Grand Prize at the Bienale of São Paulo. During the same year, Pistoletto began to pursue Performance art. In 1974 he passed a ski instructor’s exam and spent a great deal of time in the mountain town of San Sicario.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pistoletto made sculptures in polyurethane and marble and in 1980 he presented performance works in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia and also in San Francisco. In 1980, he completed a series entitled, “I Am the Third”, consisting of six silkscreens. In addition, he completed three other silkscreens on mirror-polished stainless steel.