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River of Forms: Giuseppe Penone’s Drawings

September 24, 2022–February 26, 2023

Discover transformative works by artist Giuseppe Penone that explore the relationship between human experience and the natural world. River of Forms examines the central role that drawing plays in his practice and how it has informed many large sculptural works from the 1960s until today.

Nature has offered deep inspiration for the artist throughout his career. Penone incorporates natural materials such as wood, stone, clay, coffee, graphite, charcoal, leaves, and other media in his intensely tactile works, leaving the marks of his own fingerprints, breath, and even teeth.

Celebrating the artist’s extraordinary recent gift of drawings and artist books to the museum, this exhibition of nearly 200 works on paper and a selection of sculptures reflects Penone’s extraordinary range of techniques and materials, and his belief in art as a means of understanding our place in the world.

Main Building

About the Artist

One of the most influential figures in the international artistic landscape since the late 1960s, Giuseppe Penone was born in the village of Garessio in the northern region of Piedmont, Italy. Although Penone currently lives and works in Turin, his country upbringing greatly influenced his work, which ranges from pioneering actions and sculpture to photography and works on paper. His groundbreaking early performances and sculptures of the 1960s–70s were conceived as interventions that placed his body in close contact with nature, particularly trees, stones, and water. Penone was the youngest member of Arte Povera, a heterogenous group of Italian artists brought together at the end of the 1960s by their interest in connecting art and life. Penone’s emphasis on the use of his body in his work and his interest in nature aligns him with other international artistic movements such as Process Art and Land Art. Penone’s work is held in prominent public collections at MoMA in New York, Tate in London, Nationalgalerie in Berlin, MAXXI in Rome, and Centre Pompidou in Paris, which organized a retrospective exhibition of his work in 2004. A selection of his works on paper have been previously exhibited at the Drawing Center, New York, in 2004, and the Musée de la Ville de Strasbourg, France, in 1991. Major exhibitions such as Penone: L’Espace de la main (Musée de la Ville de Strasbourg, 1991), Giuseppe Penone (Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, 2013), and Giuseppe Penone. A Tree in the Wood (Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, 2018–19) included several of the works in the proposed gift.

Portrait of Giuseppe Penone

Portrait of Giuseppe Penone © James Ewing Photography



River of Forms: Giuseppe Penone’s Drawings has been made possible by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity by the Italian Ministry of Culture under the Italian Council program (2021).

Additional funding is provided by the Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Excellence in Contemporary Art, Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Ginevra Caltagirone, Ms. Jennifer S. Rice and Mr. Michael C. Forman, Susan and James Meyer, Agnes Gund, Katherine Sachs, Thomas and Alice Tisch, Constance and Sankey Williams, and other generous donors.

Support for the accompanying publication was provided by Gagosian, Marian Goodman Gallery, and Susan and James Meyer.


Carlos Basualdo, Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, with Research Associate Dr. Lara Demori

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