Diamond in the Rough

Jannis Kounellis at Ambika P3, London

Greek-born artist Jannis Kounellis has long been celebrated as a figurehead of Arte Povera, a 1960s Italian movement in which artists railed against the establishment by bringing coarse, cheap and even dirty materials into the stark white environments of gallery spaces. From 1967, his works were Povera-perfect—installations and sculptures incorporating ragged wool (Untitled, 1968), burlap sacks (Untitled, 1969) and even live animals (Untitled (12 Horses), 1969)—but he has since expanded his practice, creating further juxtapositions by incorporating live piano music and industrial products like iron bedsteads. These days, his preference is for nontraditional exhibition spaces, which explains the location of his latest installation, the Ambika P3 space in London. Within the confines of this 14,000-square-foot subterranean hall, converted from a 1960s workshop at the University of Westminster’s School of Engineering, Kounellis has created a monumental work with steel podiums, swathes of black fabrics, hundreds of bottles and his trademark burlap sacks. The show, the first such solo presentation Kounellis has made in London since 1982, is on view from April 23 through May 30.
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