Kounellis considers himself to be “a Greek person but an Italian artist”. Born in Greece, he moved to Italy in 1956 and studied at the ‘Academia di Belle Arti’ in Rome. Following a two year hiatus from painting, in 1967 he surfaced as an influential contributor to the newly emerging ‘Arte Povera’ movement. From this point his art developed as a mixture of painting, sculpture, collage and installation. It is characterised by the unusual combination of physically and culturally opposing materials. This includes soil, stones, sacks, fire, live animals, bed frames and doorways. Through his ambitious works Kounellis challenges the traditional notions of both painting and the gallery space.
Art in which the idea takes precedence over its manifestation in visual form. It emerged in the 1960s and was often concerned with the nature of art and the use of language.
Introduced by the Italian art critic and curator Germano Celant in 1967, ‘arte povera’ literally translates as ‘poor art’. As a movement was concerned with eliminating the idea of art as an exclusive activity. Demonstrating openness to new materials, the artists associated with the movement rejected traditional materials such as oil paint or bronze. Instead they employed ‘valueless’ found objects and materials such as stones and soil.