Born in 1936 in Greece, Kounellis grew up in Athens before moving to Rome in 1956 to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti. He experimented with stencilling numbers and letters across black and white canvas, using found elements and staging performances that illustrated his thoughts on culture and politics. In the late 1960s he became involved with Arte Povera, utilising diverse materials in his art such as old doors, bed-frames, coat-racks, cotton and coal.
Looking to break with the sterile boundaries of the traditional gallery walls, Kounellis has used live animals and people in his installation work, as well as fire, earth, coffee grounds, shopping trolleys and gold. Today, the artist articulates his theories through transforming an exhibition space into a theatrical set, where the lines between reality and fiction are blurred.
The artist lives and works in Rome.