Giorgio de Chirico and Jannis Kounellis
Level 2: Room 1
Tate Modern: Display
Open every day
Free
Giorgio de Chirico, 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' 1913

Giorgio de Chirico
The Uncertainty of the Poet 1913
Oil on canvas
support: 1060 x 940 mm frame: 1232 x 1125 x 73 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund (Eugene Cremetti Fund), the Carroll Donner Bequest, the Friends of the Tate Gallery and members of the public 1985© DACS, 2002

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This pairing of works by Jannis Kounellis and Giorgio de Chirico introduces the Poetry and Dream wing.

The displays in Poetry and Dream show how contemporary art grows from, reconnects with, and can provide fresh insights into the art of the past. The large room at the heart of the wing is devoted to surrealism, while the surrounding displays look at other artists who, in different ways, have responded to or diverged from surrealism, or explored related themes such as the world of dreams, the unconscious and archetypal myth. These displays also show how characteristically surrealist techniques such as free association, the use of chance, biomorphic form and bizarre symbolism have been reinvigorated in new contexts and through new media, often at far remove from the intentions of their pioneers.

Surrealism itself drew on earlier role models in evolving an artistic style, and de Chirico’s dream-like classical landscapes inhabited by enigmatic objects were particularly influential. Here de Chirico is being shown alongside Jannis Kounellis, who was active within the Italian arte povera group during the 1960s. Arte povera artists presented their work as radically innovative, breaking absolutely with tradition. However, while these young artists explored new materials and processes, their work can now be seen as more closely connected with the past than first seemed apparent. Like de Chirico, Kounellis creates a highly charged atmosphere, using architecture to establish a theatrical setting within which he deploys objects with strong metaphorical associations.

Giorgio de Chirico was born in Greece, to Italian parents, in 1888. He lived and worked in Italy and France.

Jannis Kounellis was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1936. He lives and works in Rome.

Text by Frances Morris.