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A short guide to Arte Povera
A closer look 06 Aug 2013

A short guide to Arte Povera

While two exhibitions are taking place simultaneously at the Louvre and Versailles with symbolic artists of that movement, Artsper offers you to focus on Arte Povera, artistic movement born a little less than a century ago in Italy.

“Attitude” more than a real artistic movement, Arte Povera was born in September 1967 when art critic Germano Celant chose to present an exhibition on this expression. From the beginning, the Arte Povera movement has been revolutionary: protesting against artistic industry models of that time but also the consumer society, the artists of this group consider themselves as messengers of a symbolic guerilla.

Do we have to literally translate the expression “Arte Povera” as the birth of a poor art, voluntarily using simple materials and refusing any complex artistic equipment? Some have thought about it regarding the fact that most of its artists use poor materials: sand, wood, cement, soil…Yet, other artists have been expressing themselves by using more costly materials such as neon light (Mario Merz), which has strongly reduced the identification of the movement as a poor art.

Besides, Arte Povera artists refuse to give any definition of their movement facing the art. What we can note about this artistic attitude is the constant reference to nature, but above all the interest of the artists in their own creative gesture more than the result of their work which aesthetic aspect is not important. A “beautiful” work of art is not important for them. Indeed, they believe that what is worth in a work of art is the intellectual process and the way of thinking that permitted to create it. Thus, it seems to be a statement in favor of an artistic progression which can explain that an observer can be totally lost in front of a work he does not know anything about, whereas another one can understand it and get the poetry.

Even though it is hard to access and preserve the Arte Povera, cultural institutions, galleries and collectors are more and more interested in this movement. Thus, according to Artprice, among the most popular artists of the movement, five have already sold works for more than a million of dollars: Piero Manzoni, Alighiro Boetti, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz and Jannis Kounellis. Seven other artists are considered as members of the movement: Giovanni Anselmo, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Marisa Merz, Pino Pascali, Giulio Paolini and Gilverto Zorio.

Mario Merz, Objet Cache-Toi, 1968, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg © Fondazione Merz

Mario Merz “Objet Cache toi” – Fondazione Merz


Alighiero Boetti - Mappa - 1989 - © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York SIAE, Rome

Alighiero Boetti “Mappa”

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mappamondo, 1966-1968, © Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, photo J.E.S


Michelangelo Pistoletto “Mappamondo”

Giuseppe Penone - Spazio di Luce - 2008 © EPV Th. Garnier - Château de Versailles


Giuseppe Penone “Spazio di Luce” – Chateau de Versailles

Jannis Kounellis - Senza titolo - 1969 - © Jannis Kounellis


Jannis Kounellis – Untitled

Guiseppe Penone, Soffio 6 - 1978 - © ADAGP 

Guiseppe Penone “Soffio 6″

Giovanni Anselmo, Senzo titolo (struttura che mangia) 1968 - © Giovanni Anselmo


Giovanni Anselmo “Untitled”

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