Jannis Kounelis (1936-2017) settles in Rome in 1956. His first pieces were full of symbols, elaborating on his feelings of isolation as a foreigner. He used monumental canvases where he painted letters and numbers in black color wishing to replace the established dialect of communication with a new artistic language. He soon associated himself with Arte Povera and started creating enigmatic pieces in the form of installations and performances. He used non-conventional, cheap material, and transformed his work into a vessel for political statements on the individual and society. His artistic climax was achieved at the legendary exhibition of twelve live horses at L’ Attico Gallery in Rome in 1969.
For this, the artist challenged the virtual language but not the representation itself, he opted to replace the representation of the horses with actual live ones: life had taken the place of art, and the boundaries between them became obsolete. In 1977 he returned to Greece with a performance at a taverna in Ampelokipoi. His triumphant return home, though, was accomplished with a retrospective exhibition in the hold of the ship “Ionion”