The First American Retrospective on Italian Futurism is at the Guggenheim
New York City's Guggenheim Museum has raised the curtain on the future—and it's very big and very particular. Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe, organized by curator Vivien Greene, brings together more than 360 works of art, including documents and a wide range of objects, from around the world to reveal a largely unknown but dynamic and ambitious aesthetic movement of the first half of the 20th century.
Works in every medium are displayed chronologically along the Guggenheim's rotunda, beginning with the fascinating Futurist Manifesto by Filippo Tommaso Martinetti, the movement's founder and leader, which outlines a vision for a modern Italy—one unburdened by its momentous past—at first, literary, and, towards its end, one that played out with marked, political tone. There are sculptures, photographs, paintings, architectural drawings, designs, clothing and costume designs, short films, free-form poetry, and an arresting, though necessarily imagined, theatrical piece, rendered as a light show with music by Stravinsky, for a work that was never realized. Throughout the exhibition, there are juxtapositions between media—some startling—which create a stimulating dialogue all their own. There are paintings by artists such as Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla that will be revelatory for visitors to the show (this is the most comprehensive exhibition mounted in the United States on the topic) as well as the fascinating and wide-ranging work of Fortunato Depero, including Campari ads.
The exhibit culminates in a top-floor gallery where five monumental murals comprise the Synthesis of Communications (illustrating modern modes of communication—air, radio, sea, land, telegraph, and telephone) by Benedetta Cappa Marinetti (the founder’s wife). They are remarkable as is the fact that they were lent specially for this exhibition by the Palazzo delle Poste (post office) in Palermo, Sicily, for which they were commissioned in the 1930’s.
Regardless of artistic medium or interest, the expansive breadth of this exhibition has something to arouse curiosity and satisfy most every taste—and this being a show concerned with matters Italian includes an intensely decorated coffee service, including a pot and cups.
The exhibition runs through August. For more information, visit the Guggenheim's website.
Stephanie Sonsino is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.