Exhibition Un Art Pauvre at Centre Pompidou, Paris | Urban Mishmash

Going Back to the Basics: Un Art Pauvre at Centre Pompidou

With its exhibition “Un Art Pauvre”, Centre Pompidou presents a new multidisciplinary analysis of the ideas of Arte Povera (literally poor art or impoverished art) movement that originated in the 1960s in Europe. The exhibition focuses on the ideas of “poor” and “plainness” in modern art through an interesting survey of the movement’s impact on visual arts as well as its interlinkages with the fields of music, design, architecture, theatre, performing arts and experimental cinema.

The Arte Povera Movement

Arte Povera was an artistic movement that came into being with the publication of critic Germano Celant’s manifesto “Arte Povera: Appunti per una guerriglia” (Arte Povera: notes for a guerrilla war) in Flash Art in November 1967. Artist Alighiero Boetti designed the manifesto poster which featured a list of 16 Italian artists who formed the Arte Povera group. Celant’s revolutionary manifesto and the subsequent years of the Arte Povera movement invoked art as a means to counter the rising consumerism and to challenge the superstructure of capitalism. By questioning the “use value” of art and with a focus on simplicity, the Arte Povera movement opposed American pop culture and minimalism that were viewed in Italy as another exported product from an industrialised nation.

Exhibition Un Art Pauvre at Centre Pompidou, Paris | Urban Mishmash
Alighiero BOETTI, Manifesto, [Manifeste], (1967)
© Centre Pomidou/Dist. RMN-GP, © Adagp, Paris 2016

Exhibition at Galerie 4

The exhibition at Galerie 4 focuses on the striking characteristics of the Arte Povera movement, such as the use of natural and waste material, writings and spoken word, tautology, vitality and animality. The exhibition features some 40 works by the movement’s leading representatives, including those by Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni and Alberto Burri, who were the three pivotal figures of post-World War Italian art. Historic printed and photographic documents have also been presented to demonstrate the linkages between the artists and their works.

Architecture and Design at Level 5

At Level 5, Centre Pompidou explores the close relationship between the Arte Povera movement and Radical Architecture under the subtitle “Architecture et Design, Autour De Global Tools (1973-1975)” (Architecture and Design: Around the Global Tools). 

The Italian counter-design school, Global Tools (founded in 1973) advocated a return to manual skills and craftsmanship through workshops, performances and urban experiments by designers and architects, who imbued a new multidisciplinary approach in favour of projects and collective creation. Arte Povera and Radical Architecture movements became closely interlinked with ‘poor’ objects and collective participation being used as an instrument to rethink and confront the political, economic and ecological problems of the society. Interactions between the body and objects gave rise to a new anthropology of design: a ‘proto-design’ capable of stimulating individual creativity and shaping new creative behaviours.

The exhibition at Level 5 focuses on this “poor architecture” and the convergence art, architecture and design as a means to rethinking the social and political space. The exhibits include reconstructions of counter-design performances and experiments in the form of photographs, films, photomontages, designer objects, architectural models and installations. We thus see the ‘poor’ geometrical objects made by Riccardo Dalisi with children from a district in Naples, Michele De Lucchi’s ‘vertical dwellings’ project within the Gruppo Cavart, the ‘wearable chairs’ installation by Gianni Pettena, the ‘Classica lamp’ and photographs of Franco Raggi’s performances with Global Tools, the ‘Design Metaphors’ of Ettore Sottsass constructed precariously in the desert landscapes of Spain and the Pyrenees.

Exhibition Un Art Pauvre at Centre Pompidou, Paris | Urban Mishmash
Riccardo DALISI, Animazione al Rione, Traiano (1971-1975)
© Archivio Dalisi

The works included in the exhibition reflect the artists’ wish to re-appropriate the city in social and political terms either through projects in the public space or by criticising the alienating nature of a consumerist society.

The exhibition Un Art Pauvre runs through August 29, 2016, and is an excellent opportunity to discover and understand the Arte Povera movement.


Where: Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris (Map)
Dates:  June 15, 2016 to August 29, 2016
Timings: Wednesday to Monday from 11 am to 9 pm. Closed on Tuesdays
Tariff: €14 (Full), €11 (Reduced)
More information: Visit Centre Pompidou’s website

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