in other words

Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask
16 November 2017

Guest Germano Celant. Photo credit: Sandy Smallens

Germano Celant, 1940-2020

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

The art historian, critic and curator Germano Celant— one of the most influential art thinkers of the postwar period—died of complications from Covid-19 in Milan this week. Celant, who coined the term Arte Povera in 1967, organized some of the most beautiful exhibitions in recent memory: “Jannis Kounellis” at the Prada Foundation in Venice last year was pure poetry in art. In his landmark essay “Arte Povera: Notes for a Guerrilla War”, he wrote: “No longer among the ranks of the exploited, the artist becomes a guerrilla fighter, capable of choosing his places of battle and with the advantages conferred by mobility, surprising and striking, rather than the other way around”.

Celant joined Allan Schwartzman and host Charlotte Burns in late 2017 for this conversation about everything from “Poor Art” to politics in art, or the ways in which the American art market has come to dominate the history of art. “Art history has to be rewritten,” Celant says in the interview, because American museums promoted a history based on formalism: “Anything that has some ideology has been completely canceled. Action painting and the Abstract Expressionists cancel all this kind of content. In order to understand European art, especially Italian, you have to understand Futurism. Futurism is a total language that includes not only painting, but the idea about changing the world: fashion, design, sexuality. And, if you don’t understand that, and you don’t rewrite history in a certain way—the idea of the political engagement of the art—you don’t understand what’s happened today.” American history based around “the formal object that stays in the house, that’s a decoration for the apartment. It’s a commodity. It’s not a political action.”


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Art Agency, Partners is a bespoke art advisory firm founded in 2014, and built upon decades of combined experience, to provide counsel to many of the world's leading art collectors and institutions on collection assessment and development, estate planning, and innovative approaches to museum giving and growth.

Editor Charlotte Burns