Pireus, 1936 – Rome, 2017
Aged 19, Jannis Kounellis moved to Italy and settled in Rome, where he attended the Fine Arts Academy. Through his artistic training, Kounellis considers himself a champion of Italian culture, and while Italian is not his mother tongue, he explains that it corresponds to his personal logic.
At the end of the 1950s, he created a poetic language based on a combination of elementary language units such as letters and symbols, painted on white canvas with black tempera, which became the subject of his first exhibition at La Tartaruga Gallery in Rome.
After a two-year interruption, he resumed his artistic practice in 1967, and exhibited with artists of the Arte Povera movement at the Attico gallery in Rome, where he showed one of his most famous pieces: an installation involving twelve live horses.
Over the next ten years, he introduced humble materials in his work, such as burlap, coal, wax, iron, lead and wool, combining them with live natural elements such as animals or plants. Kounellis wanted to invent a new form of language in which nature, culture and life could communicate.
In 1972, he exhibited at Dokumenta 5 in Kassel and at the Venice Biennale. Kounellis’ work became gradually more performative, taking on a more theatrical and musical dimension – he also designed several opera sets.
Since 1992, Kounellis has been a professor at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. His works are on display at the Museo Pecci in Prato and the MADRE in Naples. Over the past few years, he has been exploring his original themes, moving towards a monumentality that echoes his early large-scale urban projects.
Jannis Kounellis died on the 16 February 2017 in Rome at the age of 80.
© KOUNELLIS, by SIAE 2020
exhibition catalogue edited by Tornabuoni Art Paris. Text by Ilaria Bignotti. B/w and colored illustrations, 63 pages, 9,6×6,8 in, French/English, 2020.
Il Dado è tratto. Arte contemporanea italiana oltre la tradizione
exhibition catalogue edited by Tornabuoni Arte. Text by Sergio Risaliti. B/w and colored illustrations, 240 pages, 9,4×11,8 in, Italian/English, 2015.