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The Richness of ‘Poor Art’: Arte Povera, Curated by Danilo Eccher, Is On View at the Metropolitan Museum

Arte Povera at the Metropolitan Museum is literally translated as ‘poor art,’ but it’s richness of a different order

While February is turning out to be the month for art, there’s something on the calendar besides ALT 2020 and the Art Fair Philippines, and that something is ongoing at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila now: The Arte Povera exhibit that’s brought to us by the Embassy of Italy and Security Bank Corporation. 

A contemporary avant garde art movement that has its roots in the late 1960s and 1970s, Arte Povera was a reaction from a band of Italian artists against the elitism and air of privilege that accompanied the art world of that era. Seeking to break down the rules and conventions of the day, the artists were out to incorporate the everyday and commonplace into what could be regarded as art.

With Turin in Northern Italy as the unofficial Arte Povera capital, the movement captured the imagination of the whole art world, and the repercussions were felt even here in the Philippines.  Several artists of the day, including the likes of Yoko Ono, acknowledge how the movement influenced their perspective on art, and their own creative processes.

A passion project of our Ambassador from Italy, His Excellency Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino; noted Art critic Danilo Eccher curated 14 select pieces to represent the movement: 12 installations and sculptures from artists of the original, trendsetting era along with works of two younger artists who are considered Second Generation Arte Povera artists.

Mr. Eccher flew into town for the February 8 walk through and was enthusiastic about how the Metropolitan staff had assisted him in setting up the showcase, mentioning how this was the very first time an exhibit of this size and stature was traveling to Asia. The exhibit runs at our Metropolitan Museum until the end of April, and then travels on to Kuala Lumpur, and possibly, China.


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It’s truly a must-see at the Met tall gallery. I only wish something can be done so that Eccher’s explanation and commentary about the pieces could be part of the walk-through. Like much of what constitutes art, there’s so much at play beyond the surface, beyond what we visually take in. Context, in-depth understanding, a little bit of art history—they all help create better appreciation of what these installations represent and mean.

Context, in-depth understanding, a little bit of art history—they all help create better appreciation of what these installations represent and mean.

Hearing Eccher explain what we were viewing practically opened my eyes and mind, and it made me love the pieces in a much more substantive way. Ambassador Guglielmino is a good friend of my brother-in-law Luis Virata, who sits on the Board of the Met, so I had a glimpse of how passionate and determined the Ambassador was in bringing this exhibit to Asia and making Manila its very first stop. Kudos to his Excellency, and the Embassy, for embarking on this project and seeing it through so that Filipino Art enthusiasts can enjoy and gain a stronger first-hand understanding of why Arte Povera stands as one of the more important art movements of the latter half of the 20th century.

A number of my ‘art’ friends were bewailing how Art Basel Hong Kong has been officially cancelled because of the Coronavirus scare. And I found it ironic that they’re talking of this cancelation while unaware of this impressive retrospective that has opened right here in Manila. It runs until April 30, so there really is no excuse for not finding the time, and heading to Roxas Boulevard and the Met. It’s a visit that will take your breath away—if you’re still living in a mindset that equates art with something framed, hanging on the wall, or a sculpture on a pedestal, this Arte Povera exhibit is a wonderful eye-opener to the world of possibility, creativity, and imagination.

Arte Povera: Italian Landscape is on view until April 30 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.