Arte Povera Pioneer Jannis Kounellis Dies Aged 80

He will be remembered for his use of unexpected materials, including live animals, jute bags, and meat.

Jannis Kounellis at the Monnaie de Paris in March 2016. Photo THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images.

The influential Greek artist Jannis Kounellis has died at the age of 80 in his adopted hometown of Rome.

“This is a tremendous loss to the entire world. He was a great revolutionary and pioneer and we had the privilege of working with him over the last 13 years.” Adam Sheffer, partner at Cheim & Read, the artist’s gallery in New York, told artnet News on the telephone.

“He will be deeply missed but his legacy has had an impact that is unspeakable in its breadth. The number of artists and curators and collectors and writers that have been impacted by Jannis’s life and contribution to the world of art is incalculable,” Scheffer said, adding that “he’s the kind of artist that when you had a show up everyone, from David Hammons to David Salle, would come in and see it.”

The pioneer of the Arte Povera movement moved to the Italian capital from Greece in 1956 at the age of 20, where he attended the Academy of Fine Art. According to Italian daily La Repubblica, the artist considered himself a Roman because it was the place where he embarked on his legendary artistic career.

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (12 Horses) at Gavin Brown's Enterprise. Photo: courtesy Gavin Brown's Enterprise.

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (12 Horses) at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Photo: courtesy Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.

In the 1960s, he started to experiment with innovative and unexpected materials, including live animals, iron girders, jute bags, and pieces of meat and wood.

In the 1970s, Kounellis began to show his work on an international level, with exhibitions across Europe, including Cologne and London. In 1970, he represented Italy at the Venice Biennale.

During the following decade, he expanded his use of material by exhibiting quarters of slaughtered beef.

Kounellis revolutionized art through his mission to take artworks out of the frame. By pushing the boundaries of the components of individual artworks, he changed our understanding of what could be classified as art, a contribution that has already cemented his status as one of the greats.

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