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Germano Celant, 1940–2020

Curator who coined the term Arte Povera

Germano Celant, the Italian art critic who coined the term ‘Arte Povera’ has died. Celant used the phrase – literally meaning ‘poor art’ – to bring together a generation of Italian artists, emerging in the period 1967–1972, who employed everyday and found materials such as paper and ball-point pens, earth, branches, rocks and cloth in their art making. In doing so, Celant posited, they offered a rebuke to the established commercial art system. Among those artists whose profiles were buoyed by Celant’s championing were 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. 

In 1967 Celant curated Im Spazio (The Space of Thoughts) at Galleria La Bertesca in Genoa. Since then he was called upon to stage many shows on Italian art, including Identité italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1981), Italian art, 1900-1945 (Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 1989) and Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968 (Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1994). In 1988, Celant was appointed Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and from 1993 served as Artistic Director of the Prada Foundation in Milan.

In 1997 he curated the Venice Biennale.

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