Jannis Kounellis

Untitled (1960 - 1968)

About this artwork

In the late 1960s Kounellis played a key role in the foundation of Arte Povera. Literally meaning ‘Poor Art’, this was an anti-elitist movement that promoted a new openness to artistic production characterised by the use of non-art materials. Here, steel panels and canvases create a framework from which a sack of coal is suspended. The tension between the supporting structure and weight of the hanging materials draws our attention towards the centre of the composition and the special properties of the coal. Conjuring up a sense of its mass, texture and distinctive aroma, Kounellis’s integration of this ordinary substance reflected Arte Povera’s ambitions to unite art with everyday, lived experience.

  • title: Untitled
  • accession number: AR00068
  • artist: Jannis KounellisGreek (born 1936)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Sculpture
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1960 - 1968
  • measurements: 200.00 x 180.00 x 46.00 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Jannis Kounellis
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis

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.