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Arte Povera

The term Arte Povera (“Poor Art”) was coined in 1967 by Italian art critic and curator, Germano Celant. It did not describe a discrete movement, but rather it lent a collective identity to a number of young artists (working in Turin, Milan, Genoa and Rome) whose work shared common tendencies and concerns. The artists associated with Arte Povera include Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini and Gilberto Zorio. Celant related the term to international currents too, but it is more commonly associated with the Italian context. After the collapse of the Italian post-war economic miracle, these artists emerged from a network of urban cultural activity taking place in the midst heightened economic and political instability. For Celant, the artists were each involved in an attempt to break down “the dichotomy between art and life.” He related the Arte Povera to anti-elitist ‘Poor Theatre’, and the term poor also made reference to a common but not exclusive use of humble and ephemeral materials, together with an engagement with alternative exhibition and institutional forms. Other concerns to emerge were the investigation of the relationship between the natural and the man-made, and between space, visual perception and thought. The first Arte Povera survey in Britain took place in 2001 (‘Zero to Infinity’, Arte Povera, 1962-1972; Tate Modern) and over the past decade a succession of individual retrospectives have allowed the distinctive features of particular artists to come into view.

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