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“Fragility” in the concept of arte povera


Arte povera literally means “poor art”. But referring to “poor”, Germano Celant meant not a lack of resources, but rather the reduction of an object of art to elementary, simple, “poor” forms and gestures. Simple materials of the pre-industrial era, which were not traditional for the art world of that time were returned to the artworks. Thus, the artist reveals his imagination, which is opposed to the industrial society of that time.


“Poor art” has an analogue in Jerzy Grotowski’s works about theater. Grotowski’s “poor theater” shows us the true nature of the theater, its liberation from the synthesis of arts, and reveals the uniqueness and authenticity of theatrical action. An example can be found in the 1965 performance “The Stable Prince”, based on the play by Pedro Calderon.

In arte povera artists strive to use simple materials that redefine the nature and form of the object. In contrast to the political struggle and economic instability, the artists appeal to the fragility of the world, thereby creating unstable and ephemeral works that change over time. The distinctive feature of the materials is instability as well as inconstancy, which leads to a change in the nature of the work of art.


One of the changes is that the object of contemporary art is no longer completed work. So, the focus is gradually shifting to the processuality of the object, its formation during the exhibition in the gallery. However, it is necessary to distinguish processuality — as a method of creating an object of art, where special attention is paid to how the object is created (as abstract expressionists do) from processuality, as a function and the main “driving“ element of an art object — what artists of arte povera first noticed.