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Arte Povera in Naples

View of “Arte Povera più azioni povere 1968” (Poor Art Plus Poor Actions 1968), 2011–12, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. From left: Giuseppe Penone, Soffio di creta (Breath of Clay), 1978; Pino Pascali, Bachi da setola (Bristle Worms), 1968; Mario Merz, Lance (Spears), 1966. Photo: Nicola Baraglia.

CAN A HISTORICAL EXHIBITION of Arte Povera, which necessarily reframes as sculptures works that were once performative and ephemeral, provide something new to contemporary viewers and still honor the unrepeatability of the first experiment? One answer was posed by “Arte Povera più azioni povere 1968” (Poor Art Plus Poor Actions 1968) at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (MADRE) in Naples this past winter. (The exhibition was part of “Arte Povera 2011,” a nationwide celebration coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.) Curated by Eduardo Cicelyn and Arte Povera’s instigator, Germano Celant, the show directly appropriated the title of one of Arte Povera’s founding events: a three-day festival held in the southern Italian seaside town of Amalfi in 1968. The danger here, of course, is that attempting to reconstruct a historical event is like excavating

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