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Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017)
Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017)
Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017)
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Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017)
6 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017)


Jannis Kounellis (1936-2017)
steel and coal collage on lead, in five parts
each: 39 3/8 x 27 ½x 6 ¾in. (100 x 69.9 x 17.1cm.)
overall: 39 3/8 x 154 x 6 ¾in. (100 x 391.2 x 17.1cm.)
Executed in 1989
Donald Young Gallery, Chicago.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989.
Chicago, Donald Young Gallery, Kounellis, 1989.
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Lot Essay

From the very beginning, Jannis Kounellis announced his intention to paint materially, a steadfast commitment he upheld throughout his prolific practice; the first impression of Untitled, 1989, is its remarkable presence. Five panels of shimmering coal and lead exude an otherworldly density, an incomparable, almost primeval solidity of impenetrable, tangible blackness. For Kounellis, coal was a foundational material which he began using in the 1960s. Summoning a wealth of connotations from the industrial to environmental, the coal also speaks to the unclassifiable nature of his practice: ‘In the 1960s,’ Kounellis recalled flippantly, ‘I was designated as an “artist” because no-one knew how to define a heap of coal’ (J. Kounellis, quoted in L'Élémentaire, le vital, l'énergie: Arte Povera in Castello, exh. cat., Chateau de Villeneuve, Vence, 2004, p. 57). Hung from the wall, Untitled likewise poses a challenge to the definition of painting, a central undercurrent of his both practice and outlook. As he said, ‘I have the mindset of a painter. That’s my identity. I couldn’t abandon that even if I wanted to. In Greek the word for painter is zographos, which means someone who draws life. The Greek is much more precise. It’s a matter of living experience’ (J. Kounellis, quoted in M. Gayford, ‘“Everything needs to be centred on humanity”: Jannis Kounellis, 1936–2017’, Apollo, 17 February 2017, https://www.apollo-magazine.com/everything-needs-to-be-centred-on-humanity/).
Coinciding with this year’s Venice Biennale, Kounellis is the subject of a major retrospective curated by Germano Celant at the Fondazione Prada. Italy was where the artist spent much of his life, moving to Rome from Greece in 1956 to study at the Accademia delle Belle Arti; rooting his art in the timeless, elemental materials of the world, his work directly countered the assumed shallowness and eternal contemporary of the then-dominant Pop Art movement. His interest in commonplace materials instead galvanised Arte Povera which he helped to found in the mid-1960s. Eschewing technological developments and the market, these artists defied established ideas regarding value and worth. Rather than simply representing the world, Kounellis began incorporating everyday objects, and at times animals, into his images, binding life to art to open a mythological poetics and a renewal of language. These works seek a moral, dramatic truth, located at the intersection of myth and history: ‘During the course of his wanderings, Kounellis uncovers the incomparable richness of this multiple and fragmentary heritage: he brings together its material testimonies and spiritual messages in the crucible of his creative memory, only to access them later and project them into the future of his oeuvre’ (M. Scheps, ‘The Odyssey of Kounellis the European’, in Jannis Kounellis: In the Neue Nationalgalerie, exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, p. 43).

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