Disappearing Act

GRAZIANO ARICI

FRAMED FAME: Burri among his works at the 1983 Venice Biennale

In Italy, they called it Arte Povera, elsewhere "junk art": turning refuse — burlap sacks, globs of tar — into popular works. For artists like Alberto Burri, who began producing Arte Povera in the '50s, such trash would eventually become treasure. Museums and galleries such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York City and the Pompidou Center in Paris vied for his works for decades. In 1989, a collector shelled out $2.8 million for one of his prized Sacco (Sack) paintings called Umbria Vera. At the time of his death in 1995, Burri's most famous pieces, including the...

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