Michelangelo Pistoletto had his first solo exhibition at Galatea Galleria d’Arte in Turin in 1960. His early work was characterised by an inquiry into self-portraiture, and was quick to bring him international acclaim, leading to solo exhibitions throughout Europe and the US. His series of works Minus Objects, produced in the mid-1960s, were integral to the birth of the Arte Povera movement, in which the artist was a key figure.

From 1975-76 Pistoletto presented twelve consecutive exhibitions under the umbrella title Le Stanze at a gallery in Turin. This was the first in a series of complex yearlong works he called 'time continents'. Others included White Year (1989) and Happy Turtle (1992). During the 1990s, with Project Art and the creation in Biella of Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto and University of Ideas, Pistoletto brought art into active conversation with various spheres of society, with the aim of inspiring responsible social change.

Pistoletto was the artistic Director of Evento 2011 – art for an urban re-evolution in Bordeaux, France. In 2012 he launched Rebirth-Day, the first worldwide day of rebirth, an initiative that generated over a hundred events all over the world on December 21. In 2013, his solo exhibition Michelangelo Pistoletto, année 1. Le Paradis sur Terre was held at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.