Born in 1936 in Piraeus, Greece; died in 2017 in Rome, Italy.
He moved to Rome in 1956 and attended the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1960 he had his first solo exhibition at Plinio de Martiis’s La Tartaruga gallery in Rome. Influenced by Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana, and inspired by the works of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline, his paintings gradually become sculptural installations that physically occupy the gallery space. The work begins to contain living animals and sometimes people, proposing an unprecedented dialectic between inorganic and organic elements, in which the viewer becomes the actor and protagonist, as in his performance held in 1969 at Fabio Sargentini’s L’Attico Gallery. Over time, the artist’s research continues with installations tinged with more pessimism, in which living animals give way to those stuffed and smut to fire, as in the work presented in 1989 Espai Poblenou of Barcelona, where sides of beef just slaughtered were lit by oil lanterns and fixed to metal plates with hooks. The artist develops a more and more architectural vocabulary, transforming the exhibition space into labyrinthine environments that connect materials to spectators. Kounellis participates in numerous exhibitions, including the Biennale of Paris (1971), Documenta (1972, 1977, 1982), Venice Biennale (1972, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1993, 2011), Istanbul Biennial (1993), and Biennale of Sydney (2008). His work has also been exhibited in various museums among them are Kunstmuseum in Bern, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.