"Arte Povera Artist's Sudden Death Leaves Art World in Disbelief After Unconventional Life Choices"

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Arte Povera artist Piero Gilardi has passed away at the age of 80. Gilardi, known for his sculptures of the merger of technology and nature, gained fame during the 60s with his “Tappeti-natura” (“Nature-carpets”) during the Arte Povera movement. He briefly left the commercial art world, but made a comeback years later. Gilardi was committed to social, political, and ecological issues, having participated in workers’ protests and creating a rubber effigy of the owner of Fiat. His works were exhibited in a 2017 retrospective at the MAXXI Museum in Rome.

Piero Gilardi, Arte Povera Artist Who Briefly Left the Art World Behind for a Career in Activism, Dies at 80

Source: Alessandro Lercara 

Piero Gilardi, an Italian artist who belonged to the Arte Povera movement, has passed away at 80. Gilardi, who achieved fame in his home country and abroad, was well-known for his sculptures that envision the total merger of technology and nature. His “Tappeti-natura” (“Nature-carpets”) gained recognition during the 60s alongside his compatriots in the Arte Povera group. Despite sailing away from the commercial art world just as his work had found a solid collector base, he made a comeback around a decade later. For many Americans, his 2022 show at the Magazzino Italian Art museum in New York provided wider exposure to Gilardi’s practice.

Gilardi committed to social, political, and ecological issues

At the height of the Arte Povera movement, Gilardi became well-known within Italy and abroad, earning a solid collector base. Gilardi briefly left the art world in the 60s but made a comeback a decade later. Gilardi had committed himself for decades to social, political, and ecological issues, and upon his death announcement, Michel Rein, his gallery, recognized his commitments as essential to the contemporary world.

2017 retrospective, MAXXI Museum

Gilardi’s works were the subject of a 2017 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome. Unlike many of his colleagues who were included in the Documenta or the Venice Biennale, Gilardi was never included in these two major biennial-style shows in Europe.

It began with his fellow Turin-based artists

Piero Gilardi was born in Turin in 1942 to a Swiss family. Gilardi studied at the Liceo Artistico in Turin and other Turin-based artists, such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, inspired his direction in his art. He took up an interest in labor and the conditions of work in the auto industries that powered Turin, where he participated in workers’ protests in the 70s, at one point even creating a rubber effigy of Gianni Agnelli, the owner of Fiat.

Collaborative work, technology and nature

When Gilardi made his return to art in the 1980s, his work was far more collaborative. His works increasingly merged technology and nature, resulting in his 2004/8 installation Bioma. Bioma featured six interconnected parts, each dealing with the senses and perception. Vegetal Mutation, one of those components, featured physical leaves and digital ones. The latter would disassemble into fractal images when activated and could even be analyzed. Within Turin, he was well-known for presenting a theatrical production every May Day.

A call to be more receptive

Gilardi’s art proposed something too radical, which some believed museums and Italy writ large were unreceptive to. He urged others to change, “I think museums should increasingly welcome the ‘Art of Living Things’ and equip themselves to handle complex artistic projects involving permaculture, for example.”


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