germano celant on his curatorial journey and arte povera
a year after the death of the italian art historian, critic and germano celant curator, silvana editoriale in collaboration with studio celant published one of her last works: “The history of (my) exhibitions”. new delivered, on which celant had been working for years, is published posthumously and focuses on 34 exhibitions conceived and organized by him between 1967 and 2018. the 562-page volume traces the exhibition logic that characterizes celant’s work, to starting with the exhibition ‘im spazio’ in 1967, when he first coined the term ‘arte povera’, and ending with ‘post zang tumb tuuum: art life politique’. italia 1918-1943 ‘, which took place in fondazione prada in 2018.
Germano Celant (September 11, 1940 – April 29, 2020) was an Italian art historian, critic and curator who coined the term ‘arte povera’ in 1967. from 1993 he was artistic director of the fondazione prada in milan, presenting performances by walter de maria, louise bourgeois and anish kapoor among others, in milan and venice. designboom has published the following exhibitions organized by germano celant: “Marc Quinn” (June 2013), ‘arts & food: rituals since 1851’ (August 2015),‘christo & jeanne-claude: work in progress’ (February 2016), “Jannis kounellis” (May 2019).
germano celant all’interno della mostra / germano celant in the exhibition ‘post zang tumb tuuum. policy of artistic life: italy 1918-1943 ‘,
fondazione prada, milano, 2018
photo by ugo dalla porta
courtesy fondazione prada, milano
“The history of (my) exhibitions” is the result of an editorial project that Germano Celant had been working on for some time, which would illustrate the synthesis of his vast critical research. published by silvana editorial in collaboration with studio celant, the book brings together a selection of the most important exhibitions he has organized in chronological order, from those devoted to arte povera to the most recent. this overview captures the evolution of celant’s curatorial practice, from personal interpretation to attention to historical document, with the gaze still turned to non-traditional media – such as books, records and photography – and the overlaps between the languages of art, architecture and design.
‘celant had worked a lot on an editorial project which would be the synthesis of his vast critical research’, studio celant notes on the publication of “the history of (my) exhibitions”. “This book, of which he followed all the stages of treatment, is the result of this effort. in each of the exhibits presented, one can recognize his method of conservation by which he created the system of “exhibition”, using different artistic languages and different media to assemble works of art and documentary material. studio celant has worked with publisher silvana editoriale to ensure that this volume stays true to its original idea.‘when attitudes become form. bern 1969 / venice 2013 ‘, fondazione prada, ca’ corner della regina, venezia, 2013.
view of the exhibition con opere di alan saret, gary b. kuehn, walter of maria
photo by attilio maranzano, courtesy fondazione prada, courtesy gary kuehn and contemporary häusler
© Estate of Walter de Maria
below is an excerpt from the foreword to “ the history of (my) exhibitions ”, written by germano celant:
the practice of exhibiting works of art is a concrete and environmental form of writing that has developed over the centuries, taking on a systematic character with exhibitions and becoming over the years a means of communication and information on the activity of the artist, the theorist and the historian. depending on the contexts of the exhibition and the method of its preparation, the work of art was subjected to different types of display which shaped its perception and interpretation. it has been immersed in an abstract and conceptual, geometric and monochrome space to cut it off from its historical setting, or it has spread out in its architectural container to the point of being part of it: a global extension, intended to maintain unity of all the senses.
over time, as a curator and art historian, I have created, in museums and in public and private institutions, situations and spaces in which visual research has been presented to attract attention . I shared his energy and strength, trying to get in tune with the artists themselves, or I built, with architects and designers, a layout and a data frame that would provide a background -historical plan which corresponds to the practice of science, research as well as the highlighting, according to my own interpretation (“my” shows), of the aesthetic and linguistic developments which have marked the modern and contemporary era.image © designboom
(continuation of the extract) the result was a succession of exhibitions with different connotations which led me to identify and perhaps to sketch today a personal approach to writing on exhibitions, intertwined with disciplines collateral, in which the specialized treatment seems to have given way to a global view. the intention, often shared with artists, has been to meditate on an extra-methodical attitude, in which the parameters of reference and inquiry, of purpose and definition, are constantly evolving. this volume therefore proposes to present an open and ever-evolving exploration of the means I have adopted to show art from 1967 to the present day. it is based on illustrations that document “the staging” in different situations and on different occasions where I have managed to apply and condense a vision, based on the desire to “tell” the story, outside of the traditional patterns and taking a scientific approach. a practical, layered form of writing that aspires to reopen and systematically revisit the concept of showing. image © designboom
germano celant on utopia: definitions of the term ‘utopia’, in addition to the meaning of ‘no place’, are innumerable and in the art world have almost always taken on the value of a prophetic way of thinking and planning, the force of which lies in futurism and pioneering proposals. at the same time this projection into the future on the part of painters, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers, choreographers and architects coincided with the search for an impossible and experimental perspective of a change in society, often imaginary and illusory, almost always unreal .
however, the process of evolution towards this ideal condition has always attracted artists due to the continuous change of linguistic and factual, behavioral and imaginative signs that utopia demands with twists in history. its reasonable drive towards continued freedom from limits and boundaries is an urge to experiment that undermines old and traditional ways of thinking, seeing and feeling. a realm of dreams and visions which pushes the developments of aesthetics and design towards a new linguistic reality, which almost always turns into the construction of a bridge over which pass proposals for the reorganization of the artistic system, both from the point of view of view of imaginary hypotheses and socio-cultural development. the historical avant-gardes of the twentieth century have always been committed to moving in this direction, seeking to overcome any restrictive regulation of the formal and aesthetic conditions of their time. image © designboom
(continuation of the extract) in relation naturally to the degree of exteriorization or interiorization of the questioning of current values and of the attack against the stability of principles concerning the condition of society and of the individual, thus that the practice of political culture, “utopia” assumed different dimensions and tones that brought it to the level of the mass or the individual. in art, discourse was confined to a small elite, with the result that the disarticulation of the existing and its fragmentation reached limited levels of expansion and diffusion.
‘the history of (my) exhibitions’ is now available in bookshops and online.