Zero to infinity: Arte Povera at Tate Modern, London (2001)

Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972

Tate Modern, London
31 May – 19 August 2001

Press release text by Tate Modern

Zero to Infinity is the first major exhibition in this country to examine the work of the Arte Povera group. These fourteen artists propelled Italy to the centre of the international art scene during the 1960s. Much art since has been indebted to the pioneering methods and concepts of Arte Povera and many contemporary artists continue to be immensely influenced by the ideas and work of these artists. From its beginning in the early 1960s Arte Povera made a major contribution to the important international movement known as Conceptual Art.

The exhibition brings together 140 works by fourteen artists: Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Guiseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini and Gilberto Zorio. As the first major exhibition in Britain to concentrate exclusively on Arte Povera, Zero to Infinity not only brings to London iconic works which have never been seen here before but also includes a number of works from Italian private collections which will be shown in public for the first time since the 1960s.

Many of these major loans are large scale installations including a series of “feet” by Luciano Fabro which are over a metre wide and three metres high and made of marble, metal and silk, Guiseppe Penone’s tree (Its Being in the 12th Year of Age in a Fantastic Hour 1969) and the first of the seminal igloos by Mario Merz (Giap’s Igloo). The exhibition showcases important members of the group who have never been represented before in this country including Pier Paolo Calzolari, Piero Gilardi, Marisa Merz and Emilio Prini. The exhibition will also include a documentary section containing film footage and texts and putting the work in a historical and social context.

Arte Povera came of age in the context of the economic boom of the postwar “Italian miracle” and the subsequent student and workers’ strikes of 1968. The artists of Arte Povera rejected the primacy of painting in the art of the time, and instead sought a radical redefinition of sculpture. Working in Milan, Turin and Rome, they collectively explored an enormously wide range of media, from such humble raw materials as coal or wool, to manufactured and seductive ones such as silk or glass. They worked with living creatures and live energy sources and adopted a highly experimental approach to processes and techniques. In this way Arte Povera recast Italian artistic practice in the role of a philosophical quest into the modern world.

It was the Italian critic, Germano Celant, who in 1967 coined the phrase “arte povera” to describe the work of this group. The term has never successfully been translated but “povera” or “poor” evokes both the group’s anti-hierarchical approach to materials and their radical social and political attitudes. At the same time Arte Povera was often sumptous in its use of materials such as marble, silk and blown glass.

Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-72 is co-organised by Tate Modern, London, and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and will be shown in both venues. The exhibition is selected by Frances Morris, Senior Curator, Tate Modern and Richard Flood, Chief Curator, Walker Art Center, and will subsequently tour to MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), Los Angeles, and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington. The Minneapolis presentation of the exhibition is made possible by The Mrs. Estée Lauder Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund, The Honeywell International Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura.

Tour Dates

Tate Modern, London: 31 May - 19 August 2001

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis: 13 October 2001 - 13 January 2002

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: 10 March - 11 August 2002

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC: 17 October 2002 - 12 January 2003 [...]

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