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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Arte Povera, a basic description

The avant-garde movement that appeared in Italy in the 1960s, Arte Povera, embodies a distrust of consumer society (especially that of American imperialism), favoring the use of simple materials, often natural or recovery elements. It is an art form in which the conceptual dimension and that of nomadism predominate. Art Povera was a politically contested attitude, symbolizing the spirit of decay before time, and which endeavored to decompartmentalize artistic practices.

History of movement

In an era marked by American imperialism and the emergence of pop art, a group of Italian artists, mainly from the city of Milan, heavily impacted by the industrial crisis, turned to nature and so-called poor materials. We are at the beginning of the 1960s, but the movement only found its name in 1967 under the authority of the critic Germano Celant.

Arte Povera is not based solely on the use of natural, rudimentary, or recycled materials. It is above all a question of embodying a defiant and revolutionary attitude towards the consumer society. It is, therefore, a deeply political art form, which was mainly registered between 1966 and 1969. The works and actions are carried out by the group of artists, including, among others, Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jannis Kounellis, and Giuseppe Penone.

Some artists also use modern materials, such as neon. What prevails is the anchoring of their works in reality, without excluding the expression of a poetic language. They often favor the installation mode. Most of them, with the exception of Giuseppe Penone, endeavor to depersonalize their works, not to tell them of personal experience.

Arte Povera aims to raise questions about our contemporary society. The term "poor" means simplicity, counting, asceticism ... and embodies a metaphysical posture. What is left of nature, our natural behaviors, our instincts, our aspirations for poetry? It also suggests that the artist has a role to play, that of involving the spectator in a collective approach, which remains very topical at a time of climatic and societal upheavals encountered in our contemporary western society.


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