Today a new wing of UBS Openings: Tate Modern Collection Displays opens exploring the radical art of the 1960s associated with Arte Povera and its legacy. The Energy and Process wing features 11 galleries showing the precedents to the movement and echoes of Arte Povera on recent contemporary practice. As part of the 2009 rehang, there are major new acquisitions to the Tate Collection by artists including Giovanni Anselmo, Lynda Benglis, Anselm Kiefer, Susumu Koshimizu, Ana Mendieta, Marisa Merz, Robert Morris and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
The central space of the new Energy and Process wing is devoted to a selection of works made by artists in the 1960s and 1970s. The term Arte Povera was coined by the art critic Germano Celant to describe the activities of Italian artists who used the simplest means to create poetic statements based on everyday life. Seen as a reaction against the commercialism of the art market, the work demonstrated a keen appetite to use commonplace or ‘poor’ materials and new processes. This attitude immediately found international resonance. Art could be made from anything: living things, natural and industrial products, or even immaterial substances such as moisture, sound or energy. Traditional definitions of an art work were rejected and instead energy and process were emphasised: temporality, materiality, concept and context. The remarkable new acquisitions in this gallery include works by major international figures and will be shown alongside familiar works from Tate’s collection, including Eva Hesse’s Addendum 1967 and Giuseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres 1980-2.
Elsewhere in the Energy and Process wing Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Venus of the Rags 1967/1974 is shown with two works by Alighiero Boetti. Pistoletto – a key figure in the Arte Povera movement – surrounded a marble reproduction of the classical Callipigia Venus with second-hand clothes which had been used to clean his Mirror Paintings. Clearly, the work brings together two opposing elements: classical and contemporary, ‘high’ and ‘low’, precious and throw-away, hard and soft, and emphasises the artists’ attitude that all forms, materials, ideas and means are available and to be used.
Introduced by the pairing of two iconic pieces by Kasimir Malevich and Richard Serra, a series of displays radiate out in galleries around the central space. Powerful works by Ana Mendieta and Marissa Merz feature in two new monographic displays. These artists have recently been added to the Tate Collection demonstrating the commitment by Tate to acquire and display works by important international women artists. Energy and Process includes further monographic displays of recently acquired works including the ARTIST ROOMS displays of Anselm Kiefer and Jannis Kounellis. There is also a gallery dedicated to the experimental films of Yvonne Rainer.
There are two broader themes. A key display, titled ‘Beyond Painting’ explores the expansion of painting off the wall throughout the twentieth century in ways that anticipate concerns explored by the generation associated with Arte Povera. This includes reliefs by Pablo Picasso and Kurt Schwitters, and more materially explorative works by Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Daniel Spoerri and others.
Another theme looks at the practice of Land Art. It presents a group of works which explore the natural environment as artistic source, bringing into question the supposed difference of nature and culture through more observational or conceptual means.
The rehang has been made possible thanks to a significant partnership between Tate Modern and UBS.