Arte Povera

The Destructive Power of the 1960s and the Arte Povera Movement

We know the 60s as a period in which the civil movements challenged all kinds of authorships. Many major art movements such as feminist art and conceptual art emerged. They also originated in sub-currents such as Arte Povera and made a significant impact.

Historical Background

Arte Povera, also known as “poor art,” took its place in the art world with the definition of the famous art critic and curator Germano Celant (in 1967). The most influential artists of this movement, which started in Italy with two pioneering exhibitions, are Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Gilberto Zorio (“Art Terms, Arte Povera.” Tate Museum, London).

If we examine this period in more detail, there has been a break in art history as different materials have shown their place in the art world within the scope of conceptual art. This break has brought along many different thinking systems. Artists no longer needed traditional products such as canvas, oil paint, acrylic paint to express themselves. In the period 1960-1970, artists started to notice the penetration of the objects we use daily into the art world, galleries, and museums. It was a great rebellion to criticize the art world’s rulers from performance art to conceptual art.

Although the Arte Povera movement emerged in Italy for the first time, “poor art” was a rebellion against the art world’s white walls and the exploitative gallery system. It was a strong reaction to the consumption obsession that went out of hand and the impoverishment and radicalization of specific segments. “Arte Povera”, which turned into a way of expressing the anti-fascist discourses by Italian artists, soon managed to attract essential artists’ and critics’ attention.

Pioneers of Arte Povera

Mario Merz is one of the prominent representatives of this art movement. Mertz has managed to attract the attention of minimalist artists and conceptual artists with his works in which he exhibits the combination of found objects and his works using neon lights. Giovanni Anselmo, on the other hand, continued to focus on different sculpture systems.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, a versatile artist, has worked in many forms of art, from performance art to theorist to sculpture installations, and has won awards in the world’s most important contemporary art biennials such as the “Sao Paolo Biennal” and “Venice Biennal”. Arte Povera exhibitions have influenced many movements from minimalists to performance artists in world art history.

Venus of the Rags

Venus of the Rags 1967, 1974 Michelangelo Pistoletto born 1933 Purchased with assistance from Tate International Council 2006

The “Venus of the Rags, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1967”, which has become the symbol of Arte Pov-era, represents a neo-avant-garde perspective on classical sculpture. Criticizing the modern world to create a consumer society, Michelangelo Pistoletto brings classical Italian art and conceptual art. Pistoletto re-created the sculpture of Venus, which initially belongs to the neoclassical movement’s thought system. This piece is one of the most influential works of the Italian “arte povera” movement using the daily consumption objects (fabric pieces, garbage, clothes).

Igoo With Tree

Mario Merz, “Untitled” (Igloo) 1989

“Igoo With Tree”, one of the other artworks of the movement, is one of the critical and signature works of Mario Merz. Mario’s “Igoo with Tree” series will be discussed with his attitude and influenced by different movements such as media arts, installation art, neon light art, conceptual art, and post-minimalist art. The artist, who exhibited his “Igloos” series in Milan, exhibited his work “Ig-loo With Tree” for the first time in Galleria Arco d’Alibert in Rome in 1968. Mario Merz (1923-2003), the Arte Povera movement pioneer, used political references in his artworks. In his first work, criticizing the Vietnam War and militarism culture, he continued to create anti-war references artworks until his death.

Final Thoughts

Arte Povera has influenced many art movements, from daily consumption objects in artworks to neon artworks, from conceptual art to post-minimalist art, from neo-avant-garde sculpture to performance art. This movement, which emerged in Italy as an uprising against the art world, carried the notes of the 1960s revolt and freedom and has been an inspiration for the artists who produce anti-fascist and anti-militarist thought practice in the art world.

References :

Art Terms, Arte Povera.” Tate Museum, 2017,

Venus of the Rags.” Michelangelo Pistoletto, 2015,

The museum, Tate. “Mario Merz.” Igloo, Do We Go Around Houses, or Do Houses Go Around Us? 2013,

Arte Povera, Tate Modern, FARQUHARSON, ALEX. London, UK, 9 Sept. 2001,


Venus of the Rags, © Michaelangelo Pistoletto, Purchased with assistance from Tate International Council 2006

Kiasma Museum Of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, 1989. Retrieved from:

For more: 

Aliye Berger: The First Engraving Artist of Turkey

Piet Mondrian: Color, Harmony, and Rhythm

The Undeniable Impact of the 60s

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