Bonhams : Significant Arte Povera Artistsat Post-War and Contemporary Sale
Significant Arte Povera Artists
at Post-War and Contemporary Sale

Untitled, 1989, by Jannis Kounellis, leads a strong selection of Arte Povera works in Bonhams Post-War & Contemporary Art Sale on Wednesday 6 March in London. Untitled, executed in 1989, is firmly rooted in the Italian movement's ambition to challenge the hierarchies of artistic media in the late 1960s to early 70s. The work has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

Jannis Kounellis was one of Arte Povera's central figures since the term was coined by Italian art critic and curator, Germano Celant, in 1967. Untitled, 1989, shows an antique sewing machine tightly bound to a sheet of metal by a rough-hewn rope. Combining both organic and man-made elements, the work is synonymous with the movement's exploration of a wide range of materials beyond the traditional use of oil paint, bronze or marble. Instead, artists chose to use everyday materials to disrupt the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system. It embodies Kounellis' long-standing ambition to challenge arbitrary dichotomies, merging art and life or 'high' and 'low' materials.

Also in the sale is a work by one of the original members of Arte Povera, Pier Paolo Calzolari, entitled Galata, 1989. Estimated at £40,000-60,000, the contraption – made up of copper, gas burners and simmering coffee – is one of the artists most complex and ambitious pieces. Calzolari's focus on ephemeral transformation and the senses is apparent in his work's activation; three kilos of finely ground coffee beans are diluted, heated to boiling point, converted to a gas and then condensed back on the creases of the copper sheet. The whole process conjures up images of ritual, alchemy and religious tradition, tapping into a wide range of art historical references. Another gem included in this section is Untitled from 1990, by Pier Paolo Calzolari, executed with salt, iron and a nut. It has an estimate of £15,000-20,000.

Giacomo Balsamo, Director of Bonhams Post-War & Contemporary art, commented, 'These works demonstrate a significant turning point in art history when artists began creating works without the restraints of traditional practices and materials. It is a movement that has had an enduring influence on later contemporary art.'

Other Italian highlights include a rare retro d'affiche from Mimmo Rotella. The work Untitled, 1960, is appearing at auction for the very first time, with an estimate of £50,000-70,000.


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