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The History of Exhibitions: Beyond the Ideology of the White Cube (part one)
Course in art and contemporary culture
19/10/2009 - 30/11/2009
Arte povera
povera - IM Spazio
(Galleria La Bertesca,
Bertesca, Genoa,
Genoa, 1967)
Ambiente/Arte (Venice Biennale, 1976)
Presented by Germano
Germano Celant
19/10/2009 - Auditorium
Auditorium MACBA – 7 pm
Arte Povera - IM Spazio
September 27 to October 20, 1967
Genoa, Galleria La Bertesca
Artists: In the section “Arte Povera:” Alighiero Boetti, Catasta, 1967;
Luciano Fabro, Pavimento, tautologia, 1967; Jannis Kounellis,
Untitled, 1967 (structure of iron and coal); Giulio Paolini, Lo spazio,
1967; Pino Pascali, 1 metro cubo di terra, 1967, 2 metri cubi di terra,
1967, Emilio Prini, Perimetro d’aria, 1967
In the section “Im Spazio:” Umberto Bignardi, Mario Ceroli, Paolo
Icaro, Renato Mambor, Eliseo Mattiacci, Cesare Tacchi
Curator: Germano Celant
“This was the first exhibition to apply the name ‘Arte Povera’ to this
type of work. The exhibition was divided into two sections : ‘Arte
Povera’, with contributions by Boetti, Fabro, Kounellis, Paolini,
Pascali and Prini, and ‘Im spazio’, short for immagine spazio,
featuring works by Umberto Bignardi, Mario Ceroli, Paolo Icaro,
Renato Mambor, Eliseo Mattiacci and Cesare Tacchi. The exhibition as
a whole reflected a particular interest in works exploring notions of
space. Paolini’s contribution, Lo spazio [Space], 1967, which was
predicated on the physical perception of the room itself, spelled out
the title of the exhibition in white lacquered letters hanging on the
gallery walls. Similarly, in Perimetro d’aria [Perimeter of air], 1967,
Prini marked out the perimeter of the room using a relay of light and
sound. In Pavimento tautologia [Floor tautology], 1967, Fabro elevated
everyday behaviour such as polishing a floor to the realm of art.
Boetti’s work was a simple stack of asbestos bars, Catasta [Pile], 196667. Pascali’s 1m3 di terra [1m3 of earth] 2m3 di terra [2m3 of earth],
1967, two measurements of earth in geometric, sculptural form
mounted on the gallery walls, created a tension between chaos and
order by contrasting the natural quality of the material with the
artificial nature of the shape. Kounellis’ Senza titolo [La carboniera]
[Untitled (The coal bin)], 1967, a steel bin containing a heap of coal,
played on a similar contrast.”1
“What is happening ? Banality is entering the arena of art. The
insignificant is coming into being or, rather, it is beginning to
imposing itself. Physical presence and behavior have themselves
become art. (…) We are living in a period of deculturation.
Iconographic conventions are collapsing, symbolic and conventional
languages crumbling.” Germano Celant2
Images (Top-down): Luciano Fabro, Pavimento, tautologia (1967); Alighiero Boetti, Catasta (1967);
Pino Pascali, 1 metro cubo di terra (1967); Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (1967); Giulio Paolini, Progetto
per lo spazio [Project for space] (1967), Plans for installation.
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, (ed.). Arte Povera, London, Phaidon Press, 1999, p. 51.
Extract from the text originally published in the exhibition catalogue Arte povera – Im Spazio, Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa, 1967, in Germano
Celant et al. Arte povera in collezione (Arte povera in collection), Milano : Charta, 2000, pp. 27-28.
July 18 to October 10, 1976
XXXVIIe Venice Biennale, Italy
Artists and exhibitions : 1. Balla, Depero, Pannaggi,
Tatlin-Yakulov, Rodchenko, Puni, Lissitsky, De
Pisis. 2. Kandinsky, Davis, Delaunay, VordembergeGildewart, Burchartz, Huszar, Mondrian, Van
Doesburg, Tauber-Arp, Schlemmer, Gorin,
Strzeminsky. 3. Van Doesburg, Dada-Messe,
Duchamp, Schwitters. 4. Arp, Radice, Sartoris,
Gorin, Duchamp, Ray, Surrealist Exhibitions
1938/1942/1947, Pollock, Fontana, Gallizio, Klein,
Kaprow. 5. Nevelson, Klein, Manzoni, Arman,
Segal, Kaprow, Oldenburg, Ben, Watts. 6. Christo,
Oldenburg, Paolini, Colombo, Schneeman, Accardi,
Warhol, Pistoletto. 7. Information 1966/1976.
8. Palermo. 9. Buren. 10. Graham. 11. Beuys. 12.
LeWitt. 13. Merz. 14. Nauman. 15. Kounellis. 16.
Acconci . 17. Irwin. 18. Nordman. 19. Wheeler. 20.
Curator : Germano Celant
Total attendance of the 1976 Venice Biennale: 692 000
1976 Venice Biennale’s general theme was
“Ambiente, Partecipazione, Strutture Culturali”
(Environment, Participation, Cultural Structures).
Germano Celant’s exhibition Ambiente/Arte was
located in the Central Pavilion and comprised a
historical and a contemporary section. In the
contemporary section, he commissioned artists such
as Vito Acconci, Michael Asher, Daniel Buren, Mario
Merz and Dan Graham to interact with the indoor
architecture of the Giardini. In the historical section,
he reconstructed avant-garde and post-war
reconstructions were made specifically for the
biennale such as Man Ray’s Exit (1934), Yves Klein’s
Immaterieller Raum (1961) and Arman’s Le plein
(1960) which kept its original facade. The Jackson
Pollock room did not include real Pollock paintings,
it was an environment which gave a sense of
Pollock’s way of working: there was six
photographic enlargements of Pollock at work by
Hans Namuth (1950), a life-size enlargement on the
floor of One, number 31 (1950) and Namuth’s film
on Pollock. The concept of “ambiente” should be
understood in relationship with Celant’s passionate
interest in the history of avant-garde installation3
which led him to reflect on the context as integral to
the work. In Ambiente/Arte, the context referred to
the interior architecture, the internal structure of
the space, its volume and surface. According to him,
although mosaics and frescoes had already paved the
way for such an assimilation, the historical avantgarde in the 1910s and 1920s produced
environments whose integration of space into the
work had become actively part of the creative process.
Celant, Germano, ‘A visual machine: art installation and its modern archetypes’ in GREENBERG, Reesa; FERGUSON, Brunce W.; NAIRNE,
Sandy. Thinking about Exhibitions, London: Routledge, 1996
“At the start of the twentieth century, within an artistic system that is directed towards objectivity, both
in surface and in volume, the possibilities of an “ambient” choice were extremely limited. The artist
was tied by the demand which urged him to operate on the monolithic scale of the picture and the
sculpture and had few occasions to exceed the confines of the ambient space, defined by 4 walls, the
ceiling and the floor. The uneasiness and intolerance caused by this conditioned situation, in which the
object, from being only one of the many forms of art, had become the sole vehicle of expression,
exploded from 1909 with the comprehensive vision of Futurism. This urged linguistic and physical
movements beyond previous limits and opened a free procedural space from the strictly visual
monopoly. (...) The aim is that of creating a field in space and time to make a “unicum”, where art
bears witness to vital, ideological needs, and to physically and aesthetically
integrate the existence of art with the concrete reality
which surrounds it.” Germano Celant4
Germano Celant
Germano Celant, PhD in Contemporary Art and Theory, is internationally acknowledged for his
theories on Arte Povera. He is the curator of hundreds of exhibitions in the most prominent
international museums and institutions worldwide. Additionally, he is author of more than one
hundred publications, including both books and catalogues. Since 1977 he has been a contributing
editor to “Artforum”, in New York. In 1987 he received The Frank Jewett Mather Award from CAA,
The College Art Association of America. Since 1989 till 2008 he has been the Senior Curator of
Contemporary Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York. In 1997 he was appointed
Curator of the 47. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte. La Biennale di Venezia. Since 1995 he is the
Director of Fondazione Prada, Milan. In 2001 he curated the Brazilian Pavillon at the 49. Esposizione
Internazionale d'Arte, Venice. Since 2005 he is the Director of Fondazione Aldo Rossi, Milan and since
2008 he is the Curator of the Fondazione Annabianca e Emilio Vedova, Venice. Since 2009 he is the
Curator of Art and Architecture at La Triennale di Milano, Milan.
Since 1970 Celant has organized exhibitions and art events such as Conceptual Art Arte Povera Land
Art, the Civic Museum, Turin 1970; Ambiente/Arte, the Venice Biennale, 1976; Identité italienne,
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1981. He co-directed Documenta 7, Kassel 1982 and together with
Pontus Hulten he organized Futurismo & Futurismi, Palazzo Grassi, Venice 1986 and Arte italiana
1900-1945, Palazzo Grassi, Venice 1989; with Norman Rosenthal Italian Art in the XXth Century, the
Royal Academy, London 1989; with Ida Gianelli Memoria del futuro, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia,
Madrid, 1990; The Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1994;
Brazil, Body & Soul, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2001; Unveiling the Prada Foundation,
with OMA/Rem Koolhaas, Fondazione Prada, Milan, 2008.
Since 1971, he has been curating major anthological one-man exhibitions for artists such as: Joseph
Beuys, Naples, 1971; Jannis Kounellis, Rimini, 1983; Mario Merz, New York, 1989; Ugo Mulas, Milan,
1989; Robert Mapplethorpe (first european retrospective), Stockholm, 1992 ; Rebecca Horn, The
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1993; Keith Haring, Rivoli, 1994; Claes Oldenburg, Washington,
1996; Andy Warhol: A Factory, Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, 1998; Kunsthalle, Wien; Palais des Beaux
Arts, Bruxelles; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 1999; Laurie Anderson, Fondazione Prada, Milan, 1998;
Merce Cunningham, Fondació Tápies, Barcelona; Museu Serralves, Porto, 1999; con Clare Bell, Jim
Dine, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1999; Mariko Mori. Dream Temple,
Fondazione Prada, Milan, 1999; Thomas Demand. Processo grottesco, Fondazione Giorgio Cini,
Venice, 2007; Natalie Djurberg. Turn into me, Fondazione Prada, Milan, 2008; Manzoni. A
Retrospective, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009; John Wesley, Fondazione Prada, Venice, 2009.
Germano Celant, Art & Environment 1909-2009. Sculpturing the interior space.
Selected bibliography
Arte povera, 1966-1980 : libri e documenti, Mantova : Corraini, 2007
ALLOWAY, Lawrence. The Venice Biennale 1895-1969. From Salon to Goldfish Bowl. Connecticut:
New York Graphic Society, 1968
CELANT, Germano. Arte Povera – Im Spazio, Genoa: Masnata/Trentalance, 1967
CELANT, Germano. Ambiente/Arte: dal futurismo alla body art. Venezia: La Biennale di Venezia, 1977
CELANT, Germano. ‘Ambient/Art’ in Environment, Participation, Cultural Structures (first volume),
Venice: La Biennale di Venezia, 1976
CELANT, Germano. “Notes for a guerrilla war”, Flash Art, n.5, 1967
CELANT, Germano. Arte povera, Milano: Gabriele Mazzotta, 1969
CELANT, Germano. Arte povera : 13 italienische Künstler, Dokumentation und neue Werke, München:
Kunstverein München, 1971
CELANT, Germano. Arte povera. Milano: Umberto Allemandi & C., 1989
CELANT, Germano. Arte povera. Milano: Electa, 1985
CELANT, Germano. Identité italienne : l'art en Italie depuis 1959, Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1981
CELANT, Germano, SZEEMANN, Harald; TRINI Tommaso; AMMANN Jean-Christophe. Arte povera
in collezione (Arte povera in collection), Milano: Charta, cop. 2000
CELANT, Germano. « A Visual Machine : Art installation and its modern archetypes, in GREENBERG,
Reesa; FERGUSON, Brunce W.; NAIRNE, Sandy. Thinking about Exhibitions, London: Routledge,
CHRISTOV-BAKARGIEV (ed.). Arte Povera, London: Phaidon Press, 1999
DI MARTINO Enzo; RIZZI Paolo. Storia della Biennale, 1895-1982, Milano: Electa, c1982.
DI MARTINO, Enzo. La Biennale di Venezia: 1895-1995: cento anni di arte e cultura. Milano: Giorgio
Mondadori, 1995.
MORRIS Frances ; FLOOD Richard, Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972, Tate Modern Londres,
Walker Art Center Minneapolis, 2001
POLANCO, Aurora Fernández. Arte povera, Nerea: DL 1999
References of images : MORRIS Frances ; FLOOD Richard, Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972,
Tate Modern Londres, Walker Art Center Minneapolis, 2001; CELANT, Germano. Identité italienne :
l'art en Italie depuis 1959, Paris, Centre Pompidou, 1981 ; CHRISTOV-BAKARGIEV (ed.). Arte Povera,
London, Phaidon Press, 1999 ; CELANT, Germano. ‘Ambient/Art’ in Environment, Participation,
Cultural Structures (first volume), Venice: La Biennale di Venezia, 1976
Document edited by Florence Ostende
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