Jannis Kounellis was a Greek Italian painter and sculptor and one of the first exponents of the art movement Arte Povera. He died in Rome on 16 February 2017.
Born in Piraeus, Greece in 1936, he lived in Greece through the Second World War and Greek Civil War before he moved to Rome in 1956 where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts.
His work started to prolifically develop throughout the 1960s. From 1960 to 1966, Kounellis exhibited almost exclusively paintings. His work throughout the 60s often incorporated found sculptural objects such as street signs, recogniseable symbols of contemporary society stenciled onto his canvases, like numbers, letters and words, or the wearing of his works as garments during performances. This newfound uniting of painting, sculpture and performance was Kounellis’ expression out of traditional art and one of the reasons he was so important and outstanding for the development of Arte Povera.
In 1967, Kounellis participated in the exhibition ‘Arte Povera - e IM Spazio’ at the La Bertesca Gallery in Genoa curated by curator Germano Celant. He was subsequently associated with Arte Povera, which can be theorized as a movement that came away from working on flat surfaces and focused on installations and performance. Kounellis went on throughout the 60s and into the 70s to participate in some of the most prolific arte povera exhibitions. He constantly introduced more “found” materials into his works , replacing canvases with bed frames, doorways, windows, and using materials like raw wool, rope, hair and fire.
Jannis Kounnellis continued working, exhibiting and creating art throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, exhibiting often in Documenta (1972, 1977, 1982), the Venice Biennale (1972, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1998, 1993, and 2011), Tate Modern Gallery in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago as well as presenting countless retrospectives of the body of the artist’s work.
Etel Adnan Ai Weiwei Leila Alaoui Juan Araujo Kader Attia Daniel Buren Cai Guo-Qiang Alejandro Campins Iván Capote Yoan Capote Loris Cecchini Elizabet Cerviño Chen Zhen Nikhil Chopra Marcelo Cidade Jonathas De Andrade Berlinde De Bruyckere Leandro Erlich Carlos Garaicoa Osvaldo González Antony Gormley Gu Dexin Shilpa Gupta Subodh Gupta Carsten Höller JR Ilya & Emilia Kabakov Zhanna Kadyrova Kan Xuan Anish Kapoor André Komatsu Jannis Kounellis Luis López-Chávez Jorge Macchi Ahmed Mater Cildo Meireles José Manuel Mesías Sabrina Mezzaqui Margherita Morgantin Moataz Nasr Hans Op de Beeck Ornaghi & Prestinari Giovanni Ozzola Susana Pilar Michelangelo Pistoletto Kiwon Park Qiu Zhijie Tobias Rehberger Arcangelo Sassolino Manuela Sedmach Serse Kiki Smith Nedko Solakov Marta Spagnoli José Antonio Suárez Londoño Hiroshi Sugimoto Sun Yuan & Peng Yu Pascale Marthine Tayou Armando Testa Nari Ward Sophie Whettnall Sislej Xhafa José Yaque Zhuang Hui