Jannis Kounellis, artist and one of the best known figures of the Arte Povera movement, 1936–2017

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 1989

Jannis Kounellis, one of the best known figures of the Arte Povera movement, has died. The Greek artist, who from 1956 made Rome his home, initially painted. By 1961 however he replaced the canvas with newspaper, a move the artist, whose childhood was marked by both the Second World War and the Greek Civil War, described as stemming from a desire to bring the politics and social frustrations of everyday life into his work.

From 1963 Kounellis went further, introducing a whole range of found objects into his paintings, putting the artist as the forefront of the burgeoning school of 'poor art'.  In 1967, wishing to further a sense of anarchy to his exhibitions Kounellis installed live birds alongside his painting. That work was the forerunner for perhaps the artist's most iconic installation, 12 Horses (1969), in which he exhibited twelve live horses at the Galleria l'Attico. The work was restaged by Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York, in 2015. Other solo exhibitions include the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens (2012), Tate Modern, London (2009), the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2007), the Albertina, Vienna (2005), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (1996), the Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1988), the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1982) and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1981).

17 February 2017








of the leading figures of the Arte Povera movement, died in Rome’s Villa Mafalda hospital, aged 80, according to Italian media reports.

Born in Piraeus , Greece in 1936, the artist moved to Rome at the age of 20 to study at the Academy of Fine Arts and considered the Eternal City his adopted home, where he continued to live and work. He had his first solo exhibition in 1960 at La Tartaruga gallery, a regular stomping ground for the city’s artists and intellectuals, but perhaps his most famous early show was in 1969, when he displayed 12 live horses in Rome’s Attic Gallery. (The work was recently recreated by New York’s Gavin Brown's Enterprise in June 2015.)

Kounellis was known for his use of lowly, often earthy materials in his work—coal, jute bags, steel, piles of stones—which tied him to the Arte Povera artists who used similarly “poor” media. The artist took part in the Venice Biennale for the first time in 1972 and became a regular contributor to the international exhibition. Over the years he has been the subject of solo exhibitions at international museums including the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens (2012), Tate Modern, London (2009), the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2007), the Albertina, Vienna (2005), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (1996), the Castello di Rivoli, Turin (1988), the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1982) and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1981).