Arte Povera

Arte Povera referred to the term “poor art” and was a contemporary art movement between 1962 and 1972 in Italy and more specifically Turin, Italy.

As a movement it also referred to the humble, often simple materials employed, and the anti-institutional quality that originally affected this art. Arte Povera usually incorporates organic and industrial materials in ways that reveal the conflicts between the natural and the man-made. Through sculpture, assemblage, and performance Arte Povera artists became engaged in subjective investigations of the relationships between life and art and between seeing and thinking.

The featured photograph shows some of the main figures during this movement. Because Art Povera was a reaction against modernism and the American minimalism it is mostly exhibited in sculptural installations in which dynamic interaction with the public was more important that the static sculpture itself.

Venus Sculpture
Venus of the Rags, photographed by A. Lacirasella

In the above installation, entitled “Venus of the Rags”, Pistoletto juxtaposes a pile of everyday clothes with a large sculpture of the Greek god Venus. Juxtaposition was a large motif in Arte Povera, and in this installation Pistoletto uses material to show the contrast of hard and soft, fixed and movable, monochrome and color, and cultural and everyday. Pistoletto said that “the poorness of the rags demonstrate a willingness to deploy any and all aspects of art.”

The second installation, also by Pistoletto, was meant to show that the same “poor” rags can be reused to form art. The divide between the monochrome rags and the multicolored rags is a mirror. Pistoletto used mirrors a lot in his work to contrast the abstract presence of the concepts of the work, the physical presence of the material, and the reflection through the mirror.

Pistoletto's Newspaper Sphere.png
Ball of newspapers, filmed by Michelangelo Pistoletto

This installation again by Pistoletto was of a large ball made up on newspapers. While the installation was shown as a static installation in Amalfi, the main concept behind the piece was when it was rolled down the streets of Turin. The idea was to evoke the passage of time and the materials of daily life. At this time Arte Povera was known for employing avant-garde tactics of public installations.

To make this piece Pistoletto tore parts of newspapers apart and pasted them into the ball form mashing up the daily events into one story. When he rolled the ball through the streets it was meant to show the index of mass circulation, meaning the newspaper, actually being put into physical circulation. Later on the ball was modified and encased within a wire frame. By adding the frame there is less of a sense of expansion towards any direction in the universe, isolating the ball from moving and therefore from the world.

This project has been re-done many times and in many different countries showing that that the installation’s main focus isn’t the piece itself, but instead the process of the performance that takes place.

12 Horses.png
Untitled (12 horses), installation at Galleria L’Attico

Known as igniting the Arte Povera movement, 12 Horses shows that art could be made from anything and don’t need to be commercially viable. This installation included 12 horses tied to the walls of an art gallery.  Kicking off the Art Povera movement this piece exemplified the unconventional use of material and subjects that would be prevalent in many Art Povera installations. The idea behind the piece was to show the beauty in the animals. For years artists have been painting horses, but in this installation Kounellis simply places the horses in a room representing a new simplistic way of viewing the art of the animal. It is an installation experiencing life through sensuality, and engaging the senses to create a feeling of wonder.


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