Arte Povera was born in Italy more than fifty years ago; now that more than half a century has gone by, a clear and broad vision, an agile perspective, allows us to fully evaluate Arte Povera. It was a widespread movement, enthralling, but also varied and free and magical, created by an important group of artists who once again demonstrated how much Italy, despite its individualism and dramatic corruption, is nonetheless a country that has no equals in the realm of imagination and creativity. (Paolo Repetto)
If we want to understand out of which sedimentation, and due to which circumstances and opportunities Arte Povera materialised, developed and was eventually defined, other essential factors have to be taken into consideration, together with a series of apparently secondary causes that were actually no less significant in terms of the movement’s international success and dissemination. First of all, we need to take into account not only the historical framework in which the artworks and events appeared and the reactions they precipitated, but also the generational context from which Arte Povera’s major exponents emerged.
This multifarious ferment, and especially the tangible varieties of formalisation that distinguished one artist from another, was taken up by the man who more than any other at the time, and with greater diligence, followed and critically coordinated its developments, encouraged exchanges and promoted the situation: Germano Celant.
The young Genoese critic, already close to the historic figure of Eugenio Battisti, coined the appellation “Arte Povera”, borrowing it from Grotowski’s “Poor Theatre”. Moreover, he also ventured to present the movement’s critical-ideological motivation in a number of texts that have since gone down in the annals of history, despite certain notable objections vented against them by some scholars. A broad and complex debate not only marked the stages of the movement’s various exhibitions (a great number in Italy and abroad, at times also considerable in their scope, and whose bibliography would take long to list) but also revealed the contradictions, inconsistencies and various differences within the “non-group”.