Italian art critic and curator Germano Celant, who coined the term “Arte Povera” for the radical art movement of the late 1960s and 70s, died on Wednesday. He was 80.
Artribune magazine reported that Celant died in Milan from complications from coronavirus. He had exhibited symptoms after returning to Italy from New York for the Armory Show in early March, the magazine wrote.
Through key exhibits and texts, Celant was the influential proponent of the work of young Italian artists in Turin, Milan, Genoa and Rome working with natural materials and elements such as dirt, sticks or rags who were seeking to challenge the commercial art scene at the time.
In 1967, Celant introduced the term “Arte Povera” (Poor Art) to describe this new wave of art, which became among the most recognised Italian art movements of the post World War II-era.
“The world of culture and creativity mourns the death of another of its great actors,” Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement.
“Germano Celant, art critic and curator to whom we owe one of the most prolific Italian avant-garde movements of the 20th century, leaves Italy deprived of his genius and talent,” Franceschini wrote.
Stefano Boeri, director of the Milan Triennial, a major cultural venue, said Celant would be remembered for giving shape to the nascent Arte Povera movement.
“In the 1960s, when he was very young, he observed artists working with very simple materials and producing works with a strong conceptual value,” Boeri said.
The movement’s artists included Alighiero Boetti, Mario Merz, Gilberto Zorio, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giuseppe Penone, Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis and Pino Pascali.
Born in 1940 in Genoa, Celant enjoyed a long career, organising exhibitions for a number of important international cultural institutions, including the Guggenheim in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Pinault Foundation in Venice.
He also directed the Venice Biennale of Art in 1997.
Since 1995, Celant was associated with the Prada Foundation, a cultural institution based in Milan and Venice and financed by the famous luxury brand, where he organised some 40 exhibitions, including a retrospective of Kounellis in 2019.
“We are very saddened by the death of a friend and a travelling companion,” said the presidents of the Foundation, Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, in a statement.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)