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Arte Povera

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Arte Povera
Igloo by Mario Merz, an example of Arte Povera
Years active1967–1980s
Major figuresJannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto

Arte Povera (Italian: [ˈarte ˈpɔːvera]; literally "poor art") was an art movement that took place between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s in major cities throughout Italy and above all in Turin. Other cities where the movement was also important are Milan, Rome, Genoa, Venice, Naples and Bologna. The term was coined by Italian art critic Germano Celant in 1967[1] and introduced in Italy during the period of upheaval at the end of the 1960s, when artists were taking a radical stance.[2] Artists began attacking the values of established institutions of government, industry, and culture.

Some of the first exhibitions of artists associated with Arte Povera were held at the Christian Stein Gallery in Turin, run by Margherita Stein.[3] The exhibition "IM Spazio" (The Space of Thoughts), curated by Celant and held at the Galleria La Bertesca in Genoa, Italy, from September through October 1967, is often considered to be the official starting point of Arte Povera.[2] Celant, who became one of Arte Povera's major proponents, organized two exhibitions in 1967 and 1968, followed by an influential book published by Electa in 1985 called Arte Povera Storie e protagonisti/Arte Povera. Histories and Protagonists, promoting the notion of a revolutionary art, free of convention, the power of structure, and the market place.

Although Celant attempted to encompass the radical elements of the entire international scene, the term properly centered on a group of Italian artists who attacked the corporate mentality with an art of unconventional materials and style. Key figures closely associated with the movement are Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Enrico Castellani, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini, and Gilberto Zorio.[4] They often used found objects in their works. Other early exponents of radical change in the visual arts include proto Arte Povera artists: Antoni Tàpies and the Dau al Set movement, Alberto Burri, Piero Manzoni, and Lucio Fontana and Spatialism. Art dealer Ileana Sonnabend was a champion of the movement.[1]

Trends and concepts[edit]

  • A return to simple objects and messages
  • The body and behavior are art
  • The everyday becomes meaningful
  • Traces of nature and industry appear
  • Dynamism and energy are embodied in the work
  • Nature can be documented in its physical and chemical transformation
  • Explore the notion of space and language
  • Complex and symbolic signs lose meaning
  • Ground Zero, no culture, no art system, Art = Life


Michelangelo Pistoletto began painting on mirrors in 1962, connecting painting with the constantly changing realities in which the work finds itself. In the later 1960s he began bringing together rags with casts of omnipresent classical statuary of Italy to break down the hierarchies of "art" and common things. An art of impoverished materials is certainly one aspect of the definition of Arte Povera. In his 1967 Muretto di Stracci (Rag Wall), Pistoletto makes an exotic and opulent tapestry wrapping common bricks in discarded scraps of fabric.

Jannis Kounellis and Mario Merz attempted to make the experience of art more immediately real while also more closely connecting the individual to nature. In his (Untitled /Twelve Horses), Kounellis brings the real, natural life into the gallery setting, by showing twelve horses racked-up on the gallery walls. Recalling the Dada movement and Marcel Duchamp, his aim was to challenge what could be defined as art, but unlike Duchamp, maintains the objects real and alive, redefining the notion of life and art, while keeping both entities independent.

The 'reality effect' is not secondary but constitutive.(...)Kounellis shifts the frontier of what can be defined as art, but there is never the idea that art should be dissolved into life. On the contrary, art is given a new message as a rite of initiation through which to re-experience life.[5]

Piero Gilardi, much like the aim of Arte Povera itself, was concerned with bridging the natural and the artificial. In his (Nature Carpets), 1965, which gained him recognition and assimilation into the Arte Povera movement, Gilardi built three-dimensional carpets out of polyurethane which used "natural" leaves, rocks, and soil as decoration, design and art meshed together to question societal sensibilities towards what is real and natural and how artificiality was being engrained into the contemporary commercialized world.

List of artists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b J.U-S. (3 October 2017). "Arte Povera's radical simplicity". The Economist.
  2. ^ a b "Arte Povera". MoMA: The Collection. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  3. ^ "Storia". www.galleriachristianstein.com. Archived from the original on 2022-01-20. Retrieved 2021-12-03.
  4. ^ Christov-Bakargiev, Carolyn (2005). Arte Povera. Phaidon. p. 17. ISBN 0-7148-4556-6.
  5. ^ Lumley, Robert (2004). Movements in Modern Art, Povera Arte. London: Tate.


External links[edit]