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Jannis Kounellis Biography


Jannis Kounellis was a leading light in the Italian Arte Povera movement. Meaning ‘Poor Art’, it was a style that challenged the established order and called for radical social, political and artist change. Kounellis was born near Athens in Greece and moved to Rome to study at the Academia di Bella Art in 1956. His early works were characterised by the use of stencils, which he superimposed on his paintings, to reflect street signs and advertisements. From 1960 he became more and more radical and experimental in his approach to his work.

Jannis Kounellis incorporated elements of performance art and found objects such as gold, earth, and even live animals into his pieces. His notion of the canvas expanded to include bed, door and window frames, or even the entire gallery itself. As well as painting, he also worked in sculpture, installations and performance. His driving vision was freedom from conventional norms and expectations, both in terms of materials used and in his mode of expression. Kounellis’s works have been shown at many renowned galleries and museums in Europe and America, including the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Tate in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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