It was the 1960s and the Western world was going through a series of social and political revolutions. Italy wasn’t an exception. In Turin, a group of radical artists responded with a new movement: arte povera, or ‘poor art’.
Artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz, Giuseppe Penone and Giovanni Anselmo used wood, iron and plastic – disposable, cheap materials. During a car manufacturing boom led by Fiat in Turin, they set out to create something positive from the debris.
Not for the first time, Turin challenged the artistic traditions of Milan, Rome and Florence.
In the 10th century, the French-Italian royal family House of Savoy began to rule the Alpine area known today as Piedmont. In Turin, its capital, this kingdom left a legacy that can be appreciated in majestic palaces, squares and stately boulevards. Indeed, Turin became the first capital of Italy after its unification in 1861.
The intriguing architectural style, combining baroque palaces with art nouveau buildings, and the endless arcades under which people can walk around the city for many kilometres, make Turin an inspirational place for artists.
Take its museums: the Egyptian Museum, which houses the largest collection of artefacts outside Cairo, and the National Museum of Cinema, which is a perfect place to travel through the history of the film industry inside the Mole Antonelliana tower, a real architectural wonder.
At the Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, you’ll find Picasso, Andy Warhol, Klee, Modigliani, Chagall and many others. Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art is the other venue and displays Maurizio Cattelan’s impressive Novecento: a taxidermy horse hung from the ceiling by a sling that represents a ‘frustrated tension of energy destined to find no outlet’. These two venues are also where you’ll find arte povera masterpieces.
Speaking of cheap materials, in 2015, Turinese artist Max Petrone filmed himself drawing over a coffee stain on an illustration board. He woke up the next morning to find the video had reached 100,000 views.
A week later, the Italian coffee roasting company illy invited him to replicate the experiment at the Milan Expo that year. This time he did it on a nine metre by two metre canvas. Max and illy went through a series of projects, including a logo for the cosmetics firm illy Collistar and drawings for three sets of cups and mugs that include stories created also by Petrone.
Coffee and art, art from coffee. What could be more Italian?