Hirshhorn Plaza

Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

October 24, 2002, to January 20, 2003
This exhibition of more than 140 sculptures and large-scale installations focused on the first decade of Arte Povera (translated as “poor art”), a name coined by Italian curator and critic Germano Celant in 1967 to describe work being created by a loose-knit group of artists working in Italy. The 14 artists included in this show—Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini, and Gilberto Zorio—emerged at a politically and economically chaotic time, when the postwar “Italian miracle” was collapsing amid mounting student and worker strife.

The works reflect both the Arte Povera artists’ desire to break down the separation between art and life and an almost alchemical interest in employing unorthodox materials, including coal, wood, silk, glass, live animals, and plants. Their radical attitudes and anti-hierarchical approach to materials, intentionally contrary to traditional artistic practice (specifically the supremacy of painting), emerged at the same time that Pop art was giving way to Minimalism and Conceptual art in the United States.

This was the final and only East Coast showing of Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera, 1962–1972, organized by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Tate Modern, London. Richard Flood of the Walker and Frances Morris of the Tate Modern were co-curators. A 376-page illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition.

The United States presentation of the exhibition was made possible by the Italian Trade Commission.

Additional support for the exhibition was provided by Honeywell International, the Mrs. Estée Lauder Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Craig Baker, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, and Room & Board.

The Washington, DC, presentation was made possible in part by the Holenia Trust in memory of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. In-kind support was provided by Saucy Salamander Catering Company and Seattle’s Best Coffee.

Second Floor