Magazzino Opens the Door to the Italian Arte Povera Movement

Katy Hamer

Giulio Paolini's Amore e Psiche, 1981. Courtesy of Magazzino.

Arte Povera, one of the most important movements of art history, is a link between the Italian Renaissance and what we now identify as contemporary art. First defined by art critic and curator Germano Celant in 1967, Arte Povera has had fairly limited exposure in the United States—until now.

Opening this summer in Cold Spring, New York is Magazzino, which will house seminal Arte Povera artworks from the extensive collection of postwar Italian art of Giorgio Spanu and Nancy Olnick. The married couple has collected Italian art since 1992 after being inspired by a visit to the Castello di Rivoli on the suggestion of gallerist Sauro Bocchi, who died earlier this year. Magazzino—Italian for warehouse—will focus solely on Italian art and includes a library and research facilities for academics with 5,000 books as well as an online archive.

The inaugural group exhibition pays homage to the late Margherita Stein, a collector who trumpeted Italian art and founded the Galleria Christian Stein in Turin in 1966. “The collection is unique not only because of its breadth, but due to the fact it stands to be widely discovered in the U.S.—something like 90 percent of these pieces have never been exhibited in this country,” says Magazzino Director Vittorio Calabrese. “We have an incredible opportunity to showcase and educate a wide audience on the Arte Povera movement and its progression into contemporary Italian art. We wanted to show the trajectory and evolution particular to each artist, many of whom are still alive.”


Magazzino of Italian Art in progress. Photograph by Marco Anelli.


Transporting a bit of Italy to the Hudson Valley, the premiere exhibition at Magazzino features work by Luciano Fabro, It-alia, from 1971, a poetic piece by Giovanni Anselmo from 1998 and work by other masters including Jannis Kounellis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giulio Paolini and Mario Merz. Fresh from her retrospective at the Met Breuer, Marisa Merz, the sole female artist of Arte Povera, will also be included.

Spanu and Olnick have worked closely whenever possible with artists whose work is in their collection, as well as artist’s estates. This includes Beatrice Merz, daughter of Mario and Marisa and President of the Merz Foundation, along with Pier Paolo Calzolari who visited the Olnick Spanu collection this spring. “Arte Povera is a uniquely ‘Italian’ art movement, in fact we think it’s the last avant-garde movement of the 20th century,” explains Olnick. “It goes beyond any national or temporal boundary by creating a new language, which more broadly explores the human condition, proposing a dialogue about universal facets of life as well as the essence of reality. This is why we believe Arte Povera will always remain timeless and relevant in the contemporary art landscape.”

What Magazzino assures is to allow for a didactic experience whether through looking, researching or enjoying a group of artists who have been instrumental in influencing the art of today. While some New York galleries represent several of the artists, what the warehouse offers is the chance to become better acquainted with Italian art under one roof, with something many gallery exhibitions can’t offer: time. Their maiden voyage is slated to be on view for at least one year.