Poetry Povera

Contributors | Sep 2017 | BY Ryan Steadman

The irony of the “Poor Art” movement (aka Arte Povera) becoming a darling of the art market isn’t lost on collector and curator Ingvild Goetz. “When I started to collect art,” says Goetz, “I never imagined that the works would become so valuable.”

Fortunately, many of these treasures will be on view this September in a show that Goetz organized of her own collection for Hauser & Wirth. It’s a deep dive into the Italian art movement that will feature more than 150 masterpieces—along with a vast collection of documentary photographs, catalogues, posters, exhibition invitations and publications. It is sure to be an extraordinarily informative display of Arte Povera, one more akin to a museum exhibition.

The show, which won’t offer any works for sale, will include many of Arte Povera’s most famous practitioners, such as Alighiero Boetti and Jannis Kounellis, as well as some of its lesser- known disciples. The exhibition can only be described as one woman’s decades-long labor of love. “Goetz has been one of the most dedicated, insightful and passionate collectors and patrons of Arte Povera,” says Hauser & Wirth Director Marc Payot about the gravity of the exhibition. “So it’s a rare privilege to have her organize a show of this magnitude in New York City. This will be the first show in which the public sees the movement through her eyes.”

Arte Povera

Jannis Kounellis’s Senza titolo (Untitled), 1959. Courtesy of Sammlung Goetz, München; photo by Barbara Deller-Leppert, München.

Goetz grew up with a passion for art and became an art dealer after moving to Zurich in 1972. Her first gallery was named Art In Progress, a nod to the political changes taking place in Europe at the time, as well as the material inventions happening within the contemporary art world.

During those years, one of her main focuses became a new group of artists in and around the Italian cities of Rome and Turin and the Arte Povera works they produced. The movement’s name, coined by the Italian art critic Germano Celant, referred to the group’s use of throw-away industrial materials (plastic, metal, etc.) in their artworks: something that was rightfully deemed radical in a culture weaned on masterworks by Raphael and Caravaggio. “It fascinated me how radically the artists broke with the traditional concept of art and developed a new aesthetic with ephemeral materials and found objects,” says Goetz, who has also been drawn to American abstract artists, among them Robert Ryman and Fred Sandback.

Arte Povera

Alighiero Boetti’s Mappa (Map), 1988. Courtesy of Kunstmuseum Basel and Sammlung Goetz, München; photo by Wilfried Petzi, Munich.

But what many don’t realize is how closely the works of Arte Povera are tied to the politics of that era. These groundbreaking paintings, sculptures and performances were born out of decades of political turmoil in Italy between the late 1960s and early ‘80s, a time known as the anni di piombo (or the Years of Lead). Goetz recognizes a lasting appeal in these artworks, though.

“The political statements in Arte Povera works are not linked to current events, but concern basic, superordinate human issues and questions,” she says. “They are never superficially political or associated with a moral appeal, but affect the viewer through their poetry and aesthetics. That is why the art is also timeless.”

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