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Name: Roberta Minnucci

PhD: History of Art

Thesis Title: Mnemosyne in the Avant-garde: Appropriation and Cultural Citation in Arte Povera (1964-1974)


Thesis Description:

My research aims to explore the contradictory engagement of Arte Povera with the past during the 1960s and 1970s.

Despite being promoted by the Italian art critic Germano Celant as an ahistorical avant-garde movement which rejected cultural tradition and representation in favour of an identification with nature and direct experience, Arte Povera, in practice, showed a strong bond with tradition by appropriating official high culture. These cultural references, ranging from classical sculptures to Old Master paintings, from opera to myth, reveal the existence of a subterranean tendency within the movement which was in conflict with its official aims and unveil the neglected complexity and heterogeneity of different practices. In fact, despite the revolutionary purpose and the international ambition which led the group, Arte Povera showed a strong indigenous, Italian character infused with cultural citation and humanist discourse. The substantial existing research on Arte Povera focused mainly on the groundbreaking character of the movement and its controversial engagement with the political climate of the time, failing to consider its contradictory relationship with the past.

As a consequence, my study will be the first sustained analysis of the practice of cultural citation in the specific avant-garde context of Arte Povera. It will explore the connections with high art and official culture, questioning the innovative character of the group and its revolutionary aspirations. The use of plaster cast copies of classical sculptures, the appropriation of images from history of art, together with a taste for disguise and a theatrical approach to performance will be analysed in the works of Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali and Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Main Supervisor: Dr Lara Pucci (University of Nottingham)

Second Supervisor: Dr Lucy Bradnock (University of Nottingham)


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Performing the Score: Writing, Music and Dance in Kounellis’ performance 'Da inventare sul posto' ('To Invent on the Spot'), paper presented at the Conference 'Writing/Performance', Royal College of Art, London.


  • Curatorial Placement at Tate Modern, London.

  • Double Visions and Heaps of Rags: The Interpretation of the Classical Venus in Arte Povera, paper presented at the 13th International Conference for Iconographic Studies 'Afterlife of Antiquity - Case Studies and New Perspectives in Iconology', University of Rijeka, Croatia.

  • Cultural Memory in Arte Povera: The Reception of Classical Antiquity, Invited speaker to the Research Seminar Series of the Centre for Research in Visual Culture, University of Nottingham.



  • Conflicting Bodies in Jannis Kounellis’ Performances, paper presented at the Society for Italian Studies Postgraduate Colloquium 'Body Narratives', University of St Andrews.

  • Reinterpreting Antiquity through the Photography of Sculpture: Giulio Paolini’s Sappho series (1968-1981), paper presented at 'Echoes: A Symposium on Classic-Modern Relations', University of Birmingham.
  • Curatorial Placement at the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli (Turin), Italy.

  • Classical antiquity in Arte Povera. The peregrinations of a fragmented cultural memory and its artefacts, paper presented at the Association for Art History Conference 'New Voices. Art and Movement', University of  Birmingham.


  • Exhibition Assistant for the show Poor Art / Arte Povera. Italian Influences, British Responses at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London. 

  • Delivered the talk Narratives of Influence: Arte Povera and Contemporary British Art, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London.

  • Delivered the talk Temporality and Ephemeral Art Practices: Arte Povera and Contemporary British Art, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London.

  • Chaired a roundtable discussion with curator Jenni Lomax and artists Gavin Turk and Jo Stockham on the themes of the Poor Art / Arte Povera exhibition, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London.



  • 'Impoverishing signs to reduce them to their archetypes. An Introduction to Arte Povera', in Poor Art / Arte Povera. Italian Influences, British Responses, edited by Roberta Minnucci, Stephen Nelson, Paul Bonaventura, exhibition catalogue, Estorick Foundation, London, 2017, pp. 7-13.

  • La mente mia s’invola. Fortunato Duranti artista visionario fra le Marche e Roma, curated by Stefano Papetti, exhibition catalogue, Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo-Milano, 2014, catalogue entries pp. 130, 132, 134, 136, 140, 148, 150, 152, 156, 166, 208, 210, 212, 220.

  • Printing Matter(s) in «Grain» (Exhibition catalogue “Artefacts”, December 2013, Rag Factory, London) Winter 2013, Issue 1, North London Darkroom, London, p. 3.

  • I preziosismi di un linguaggio astratto in “Sandro Bartolacci. Lineamenti Regolari”, 1-10 March 2013, Charlottenborg Palace, Nyhavn 2, Copenhagen, Denmark, Edited by Getulio Alviani and Roberta Minnucci, Don Quijote Edizioni, 2013.

  • Frieze Art Fair. Regent's Park, London, «Rivista Segno», n. 243, January/February 2013, pp. 74-75.

  • Anish Kapoor. Lisson Gallery, London, «Rivista Segno», n.243, January/February 2013, p. 32.

  • Bertozzi & Casoni. Regeneration. All Visual Arts, London, «Rivista Segno», n. 243, January/February 2013 pp. 30-31.

  • Bauhaus: Art as Life. Barbican Centre, London, «Rivista Segno», n. 242, October/November 2012, p. 58.

  • Damien Hirst. Tate Modern, London, «Rivista Segno», n. 242, October/November 2012, p.28.

  • Gilbert and George. White Cube, London. Galleria Artiatico, Napoli, «Rivista Segno», n. 241, Summer 2012, pp. 34-35.

  • Yayoi Kusama. Tate Modern, London, «Rivista Segno», n. 241, Summer 2012, pp. 24-25. 

  • Have a look! Londra. Musei e gallerie in «Rivista Segno», n. 239, February/March 2012, pp. 34-35. 

  • Piero Manzoni. Gagosian Gallery, London in «Rivista Segno», n. 239, February/March 2012, p. 35.

  • Biografia ragionata in “Bertozzi & Casoni. Premio Pino Pascali 2011”, exhibition catalogue edited by Rosalba Branà, Carlo Berardi, Jason Lee, Giusy Caroppo, Annalisa Milella, Edizioni Aliante-Museo Fondazione Pino Pascali, Polignano a Mare, 2011.

Selection of online publications:

Other Research Interests:

  • Cultural memory
  • Iconography
  • Copies and variations 
  • Restitution and provenance research


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