“An Exciting Discovery”: Italian Futurism Exhibition Opens at the Guggenheim with Rarely Seen Works

Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), Syntheses of Communications (Sintesi delle comunicazioni), 1933–34

Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), Syntheses of Communications (Sintesi delle comunicazioni), 1933–34. Tempera and encaustic on canvas, dimensions variable. Il Palazzo delle Poste di Palermo, Sicily, Poste Italiane © Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, used by permission of Vittoria Marinetti and Luce Marinetti’s heirs. Installation view: Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 21–September 1, 2014. Photo: Kris McKay © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Giacomo Balla, Paths of Movement + Dynamic Sequences (Linee andamentali + successioni dinamiche), 1913

Giacomo Balla, Paths of Movement + Dynamic Sequences (Linee andamentali + successioni dinamiche), 1913. Tempera on paper, mounted on canvas, 49 x 68 cm. Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Giacomo Balla, Trelsì. . . . Trelnò, 1914

Giacomo Balla, Trelsì. . . . Trelnò, 1914. Ink on paper, 27 x 20 cm. Private collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Photo: Luca Carrà

Gino Severini, Blue Dancer (Ballerina blu), 1912

Gino Severini, Blue Dancer (Ballerina blu), 1912. Oil on canvas with sequins, 61 x 46 cm. Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

The first comprehensive retrospective of Italian Futurism in a U.S. museum, lauded by the New York Times as “an epic… phenomenal show,” is now on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The exhibition traces the full development of Futurism in Italy, from its inception with F. T. Marinetti’s publication of the Futurist manifesto in 1909 to its demise at the end of World War II. Featuring more than 360 works, including noted paintings and sculptures such as Giacomo Balla’s Paths of Movement + Dynamic Sequences (1913) and Benedetta’s Syntheses of Communications (1933–34), which has never before been presented in America, the exhibition also examines the Futurists’ efforts to refashion everyday life through advertising, architecture, design, fashion, film, music, photography, poetry, and theater. “A major exhibition on Italian Futurism in the United States is long overdue,” exhibition curator Vivien Greene says, “And we are especially pleased to introduce audiences to ‘Secondo Futurismo,’ that is, the second and third wave Futurism from the 1920s and ’30s; these works are going to be an exciting discovery.”

While Italian Futurism is on view, the Guggenheim will host a series of events that investigate and present the dynamic and contentious movement. Scholarly programs include Emily Braun’s lecture on April 1 that looks at Marinetti’s Tactilism and its roots in the artist’s experience of trench warfare; Christini Poggi’s May 7 lecture that examines Futurism’s romance with machines, focusing on the works of Ivo Pannagi; and Silvia Barisione’s tour on June 24 that presents design and decorative arts created by Futurist workshops. There will also be Mind’s Eye tours for visitors who are blind or have low vision, and Curator’s Eye tours led by curators who helped organize the exhibition. More events, including performances paying homage to some of the Futurists’ raucous interventions, will be announced in the coming weeks.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Guggenheim blog will run a series of exhibition-related posts, written by curators, historians, and scholars to illuminate specific features of Futurism. Topics include Fortunato Depero’s work in advertising, the Futurist fascination with speed, and the imaginative visual poetry called parole in libertà, or “words-in-freedom,” such as Balla’s Trelsì. . . . Trelnò (1914).

An exhibition website introduces Italian Futurism and provides a selection of the works on view, including Gino Severini’s painting Blue Dancer (1912) and more examples of words-in-freedom poetry. The site also presents themes important to the movement, such as the notion of arte meccanica, or machine aesthetics, and aeropittura, or painting inspired by flight.

Italian Futurism is on view at the Guggenheim February 21–September 1. View upcoming Italian Futurism events, visit the exhibition website, and buy tickets to the museum.

  • Giuseppe Fallica
  • Giuseppe Fallica

    The Meeting Room of the Old Post Office Palace in Palermo is one of the finest examples of the architecture of that era. Not only the Benedetta Cappa’s paints, but everything, from the chairs to the doors, from the handles to the windows, is the top level of design.
    These pics can help us understand what I mean


    (Piero Pastorello, Monfalcone /Gorizia, Italia) I won’t be able to see the exhibition, but here are some contributions of mine.
    If it is true that the movement suffered the stigma of ‘Fascist art’ (those folks were consistent with their beliefs, thus having ‘lost their war’ in 1945 they were punished with the damnatio memoriae), their contribution to art and contemporary life is immense: as an avantgarde they introduced the total art, including also language, theatre, music, advertising, architecture, etc.. I understand that Italy in 1909 might have looked like a distant and backward periphery to the eyes of the already industralized superpowers of the time (UK, France, Germany, the US), but while their mainstream was still playing with Art Noveau and Secession fascinations, and Cubism had only started to deconstruct reality, it were the Italians who ignited the spark of the hypertexted and constantly over the tones societies we live in. For those impressed by the ‘anti-feminism’ statement, I suggest to discover what Futurist Women contributed to this outstanding legacy. Politically correctness might still imply a condemnation to all those crazy fascist (or, more likely, just Nationalist) ‘punks’, but intelligent perspectives tells us a different story.


    In any case, read Boccioni’s “Pittura scultura futuriste”, I believe you’ll find no politics in there, but the thoughts of an artist at the forefront of his times. The 1909-1944 timeframe is undoubtely too long to consider the movement from an unique perspective. I am not an academic, just an amateur: I believe we can identify at least three phases. up to the End of the 1st WW, up to the rise of Fascism, and thenthe regime years up to the collapse and defeat of Italy. let’s keep in mind that the third part was an “institutional” phase, one where the founder -from the roaring anti-system years- became part of the establishment. Still Futurism was not completely considered ‘State Art’. I believe because Mussolini was very suspicious of any possible leader that might emerge, other than himself. the same fate applied for instance to Gabriele d’Annunzio and Italo Balbo. So we have to read through a complex story. One full of hopes as well of tragedies for a people with a great past, living a hard present.