Jannis Kounellis

Birth placeEl Pireo, Greece Birth date1936

Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017) was born in Piraeus, Greece. World War II and ten years of civil war were backdrops of his childhood. In 1956, he moved to Rome and by 1960 he was an active member of the Arte Povera movement. Kounellis has been a major figure in contemporary art for more than fifty years. The artist is often referred to as one of the forefathers of the Arte Povera movement, which arose in the 1960s and played a central role in the redefinition of artistic practice with radical, highly original sculpture, performance and installation. Influenced by artists such as Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline, and both within the context of Arte Povera and outside of it, Kounellis has throughourt his career interrogated and extended the boundaries of contemporary art, and in particular possibilities of painting. Although most of his works are three-dimensional and comprised of ready-made objects (sometimes even living objects like horses, birds and humans), Kounellis has always insisted that he is a painter first and foremost.

Kounellis for a long time combined art and history with the immediacy and tangibility of the present. His first New York solo show was in 1972. Recent exhibitions include: the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece (2012); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning, Denmark (2009); the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany (2007); the Museum of Contemporary Art Donnaregina of MADRE, Naples, Italy (2006); and the National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome, Italy (2002), among others.

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