Paphos is an ancient port city on the western edge of Cyprus where (according to legend) Aphrodite was born. This year it is the European Capital of Culture. Over the summer, various events were held to celebrate Paphian history, including a performance of Trojan Women, based on the tragedy by Euripides. The production by the renowned Greek theatre director Theodoros Terzopoulos was fortunate enough to have the illustrious artist Jannis Kounellis, a leading figure in Arte Povera, as its set designer.

Naturally, this was not his first theatre experience. Although known for sculpture and multi-material work, Kounellis ventured in this direction on numerous occasions, breaking down the barriers between painting and set design with one eye on the act of performance. His installations often became genuine sets that physically occupied the exhibition space.

Kounellis’ 1969 exhibition in the Galleria L’Attico in Rome, in which 12 living horses were tethered to the walls in a sumptuous clash of ideas between nature and culture, has become legendary.

He was born 81 years ago in Piraeus, Greece, and died earlier this year in his beloved Italy. When trying to explain his art, Kounellis said that he wanted to emerge from the picture, from the frame, to venture out. His was a poetic that was almost always expressed in large dimensions: “I don’t have the sense of the easel”, he used to say with his tongue firmly in his cheek, probably the very reason that he was so beloved!

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