Postwar Italian Art Collections

An Evening with Marty Margulies viewing his Arte Povera and Postwar Italian Art Collections

Recently I had the privilege of touring the Marguiles collection of Arte Povera as a Curator-level member of the Nova Southeastern Art Museum. A 45,000 square foot warehouse in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami holds more than 5,000 contemporary artworks from the United States and Europe. The extensive Marguiles collection value is estimated at over $800 million.

The Margulies Collection is a nonprofit institution dedicated to providing art education to students and visitors. Formed by renowned collector Martin Z Margulies over several decades, the collection features works by leading names in contemporary art such as Willem de Kooning, Anselm Kiefer, and Sol LeWitt, as well as impressive examples of modern and vintage photography. Today, Marty is among the world’s foremost contemporary art collectors. Marty describes his collection this way, “It’s a collection of my external and internal experiences in my life. Art is about learning and educating yourself. It never ends. You can always educate yourself, forever.”

Of all the pieces in his collection, he holds the Arte Povera in the highest esteem. A movement of young Italian artists who attempted to create a new sculptural language through humble, everyday materials. Meaning “poor art,” the term was introduced in 1967 by Italian art critic and curator Germano Celant to describe the work by these artists. In them, Celant found a shared revolutionary spirit inextricably linked to Italy’s increasingly radical political atmosphere at the time. By using non-precious and non-permanent materials such as soil, rags, and twigs, Arte Povera artists sought to challenge and disrupt the commercialization of art.

The movement refers to a group of avant-garde painters and sculptors based in Turin, Milan, Genoa, and Rome from the mid-1960s onwards who produced a provocative fusion of conceptual art, assemblage, minimalism, and performance art. The group was promoted and publicized by the Turin dealer Enzo Sperone and, notably, by the art critic and curator Germano Celant. The latter coined the name ‘Arte Povera’ and curated the movement’s first exhibition in 1967 in Genoa. Leading members of the group included: Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini and Gilberto Zorio. They worked in many different ways. They painted, sculpted, took photographs, and made performances and installations, creating works of significant physical presence as well as small-scale gestures.

The movement’s heyday was from 1967 to 1972, but its influence on later art has been enduring. It is seen as the Italian contribution to conceptual art. In Japan, the mono-ha group looked into the essence of materials and stepped away from technological modernism. In the United States, the terms anti-form and post-minimalism describe the work that rejected minimalist sculpture’s fixed industrial shapes and sleek forms.

I highly recommend visiting the Marguiles collection in Miami. Here is the website:

Mark Richards is the retired Chairman and CEO of Appvion, Inc., headquartered in Appleton, WI.

Mark is now President of Meade Street Advisors, LLC, board governance, executive coaching, and strategic planning consulting business headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Mark enjoys all art forms and will share his best findings on occasion.

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