Minsheng Lecture: Michelangelo Pistoletto and Arte Povera Movement


Minsheng Lecture



Huang Du

Guest: Huang Du
Date: July 31, 2021
Time: 14:00-16:00
Location: Multimedia Hall 1F, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum

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Luciano Fabro, In cubo [in cube], 1966

Arte Povera is one of the most important art movements in post-war Italy that has a long-lasting influence even upon today. It countered the Pop Art movement and Minimalism aesthetics in the 1960s, which prevailed the Western world.
This radical Italian art movement took place between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970. Arte Povera literally means “poor art” in Italian. The term was introduced by the Italian art critic and curator, Germano Celant, in 1967. It refers to the art movement happening in Italy, whose artists explored a range of unconventional processes and non traditional ‘everyday’ materials.

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (Cavalli), 1967

The artists use the “neglected” materials, such as recylcled indurstrial subtance or natural materials as their media, focusing on the contrast of their weight and structure as well as the meaning of shapes and forms. In using such throwaway materials they aimed to challenge and disrupt the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system, redefining the languages and concepts in art.

Alpi Marittime (Maritime Alps, 1968)
tree trunks were distorted by copper wire, stones, and bronze casts of the Giuseppe Penone’s hand.

If Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made sculpture Fountain had put forward the concept of “this is art” in aesthetic judgment, then Kannis Kounellis’s Cavalli, which coaxed 12 horses into a gallery, raised the presupposition of “this is exhibition” in a spatio perspective. Along with the trending thoughts in the 1960s, he connects the possibilities of knowledge, the boundaries of ration, and the limitation of human together, putting on a conversation bewteen rationality and irrationality.

“The veins of water that pour from the earth flow in trickles that merge, like the branches in the trunk, like the fingers in the palm of a hand, like the bronze in the matrix of a tree.”

—Giuseppe Penone

Giuseppe Penone creates very unique sculptures, installations, and paintings. Giuseppe Penone has employed a wide range of materials, inlcuding ceremic, stones, metals, and wood, in an exploration of respiration, growth, and aging—among other involuntary processes—to create an expansive body of work including sculpture, performance, works on paper, and photography. Penone's work primarily focuses on the relationship between humankind and nature. Trees, an organic form that highly resembles mankind, is a repeated element in his series of works.

The Labyrinth and the Well, 1969-2017
Cardboard, Mirror, Size changeable according to space

Michelangelo Pistoletto is one of the leading figures of Arte Povera. He became famous for his mirror paintings, which has been continuously embedded with new meanings and challenged with new thoughts. The later works in the mirror painting series reveal the clash of Pistoletto’s different identities: his self as an artist is dramatically choreographed with his self as a component of the soceity. Pistoletto's first sculptural works, the Oggetti in meno (Minus Objects, 1965-66), initially displayed in his studio, speak to us of a desire to move beyond the concept of the exhibition space as a closed place and to eliminate the boundary between public and private.

Ready to Go, Walking Sculptures, 1966-2008

A fundamental aspect of Pistoletto‘s work is its emphasis on collaboration and participation. In 1967, he declared his studio open and it became a meeting place for poets, theatre actors and film people. Out of this emerged the heterogenous Zoo group, a “creative collaboration” that was active between 1968 and 1971. According to Pistoletto “It was perhaps one of the first experiments in the passage from the object to an aesthetic of relating.”
The Mirror paintings is Pistoletto’s first work that meditates upon primary energy, phenomenology, and the dynamic relationship between forms and materiuals. For example, some of his Minus objects sculptures from 1965-66, would later be used in group and actions, as in the case of Newspaper Sphere, which laters evolved into Walking Sculpture, which contains action, energy, and group performance.

“Without an audience, the mirror paintings do not truly exist: while the middle of painting temporary accommodate the observer creating a spontaneous and unique event with each interaction. From mirror paintings to theatre—actually everything can be theatrical works—is a natural process to me.”


The Third Paradise, The Skenderija Cultural and Sports Center, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Third Paradise, Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Trentino, Italy

In 2004, Pistoletto announced that his latest creative focus was “The Third Paradise,” which has since become Pistoletto and Cittadelarte’s major creative practice. Through this project, they closely collaborated with a lot of individuals, institutions, and organizations in art and society. Together, they make “The Third Paradise” a massive, collaborated work.

From the perspective of art history, Arte Povera initiated an aesthtic of anti-institutions with artists freely using any kind of materials. The movement has thus inspired us to think about “high” and “low,” “self” and “other,” “center” and “margin,” etc. For this event, Professor Huang Du is invited to talk about the concepts, aesthtics, historical and social narratives of Arte Povera, the art movement born under the intense political atmosphere in Italy. Huang will also talk about the relationship between what Arte Povera explores and our current times.

About the guest

Huang Du

Huang Du is an independent curator and art critic based in Beijing. He curated “Translating China,” the first solo exhibition by Jannis Kounellis at Today Art Museum, Beijing in 2011. His major curatorial projects include Art Advisor to the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale (2012 with Hans Ulrich Obrist), curator for the Chinese pavilion of the 26th Sao Paulo Biennale (Sao Paulo, 2004), and assistant curator for Chinese Pavilion of the 50th Venice Biennale, 2003. Recent projects include On Sharks & Humanity, Hong Kong Maritime Museum, 2017. Born in Shaanxi Province, China in 1965, Huang Du graduated in History of Art at Central academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing in 1988. During 1991 and 1992, he studied History of Art in Bologna University, Italy. In 2004 he received his Ph.D in Science of Fine Arts from CAFA, Beijing, China, and went on to complete his Post-Ph.D research in Academy of Fine Arts of Tsinghua University, Beijing, China in 2006.