Speed, Space, and Satire—Italian Futurism on the Blog

Carlo Carrà, Interventionist Demonstration (Manifestazione Interventista), 1914. Tempera, pen, mica powder, and paper glued on cardboard, 38.5 × 30 cm. Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Carlo Carrà, Interventionist Demonstration (Manifestazione Interventista), 1914. Tempera, pen, mica powder, and paper glued on cardboard, 38.5 × 30 cm. Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Since Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe opened in February, we have been sharing a blog series that delves into this complex and contradictory movement, examining its multi-faceted nature from multiple perspectives. Before the close of the exhibition on September 1, we revisit an array of posts that explored works from various countries and in diverse mediums—including Futurist works in our collection; announced a range of engaging programs; and provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of this unparalleled retrospective.

Luca Somigli kicked off our series by exploring the British response to Futurism through the lens of the period’s newspaper cartoons. When a traveling exhibition of works by Italian Futurists came to London, satirical cartoonists “seized upon the subject with gusto,” imagining unlikely ways this challenging new movement might affect British viewers and art alike. Guggenheim curator Natalia Lauricella followed this piece with one that dissected the commercial output of one of Futurism’s most prominent artists: Fortunato Depero. A successful graphic designer in his own right, Depero created striking advertisements, most notably for Campari, but as Lauricella demonstrates, some of his imagery promoted problematic stereotypes.

The Futurists’ obsession with speed and new modes of transport was the subject of Jessica Palmieri’s post, which touched on a range of works that expressed this fascination with machines and movement. We followed her piece with a few posts that peeked at the making of the Italian Futurism exhibition: we divulged how the Guggenheim’s curatorial team incorporated a 1917 performance by Giacoma Balla in the show; Lauricella presented an overview of the Italian Futurism catalogue, and explained how the exhibition’s curator, Vivien Greene, engaged with scholars in a range of disciplines as she addressed some of the exhibition’s key questions; and we revealed how the show was designed, sharing insights from the Guggenheim’s exhibition and graphic designers.

Two recent essays in the series have dealt with spaces created and imagined by the Futurists. Lauricella discussed Depero’s design for the Cabaret del Diavolo, a restaurant and performance space, in the context of the Futurists’ interest in the concept of the “total work of art”; and Sandro Marpillero made astute connections between the architectural philosophies of Antonio Sant’Elia and Angiolo Mazzoni.

Most recently, Vivien Greene presented her thoughts on Umberto Boccioni’s 1910 Riot in the Galleria, which joined the exhibition in May. She explains how the artist used a late 19th-century technique of painting to render the very modern subjects of urban disruption and consumption.

As Italian Futurism enters its final weeks, stop by the museum to see Boccioni’s remarkable painting and hundreds of other Futurist objects, many on view in the United States for the first time. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Look through our Italian Futurism blog series—what have you discovered about this fascinating movement? In the comments below, share one compelling fact you’ve learned, and you’ll be eligible to win a collection of exhibition-related items from our store, plus two free passes to the museum. 

  • PXDX

    Commenting to win that prize pack! Love this blog series!

  • serg78

    Digging into this I’m getting inspired for my trade as a designer, I discovered Prampolini, Fillìa, Schmalzigaug and browsing through their work is like being a vampire sucking on a fair maiden’s neck.

  • John Graham

    I saw the exhibit on 7/23 and have been obsessing over it ever since. I am completely fascinated with Giacomo Balla’s “Street Lamp” in a way I haven’t been about a painting in quite some time. It’s a fantastic exhibition and well worth seeing again and again. It was fascinating to learn about how the exhibition was designed and the curving walls were created specifically for it as I’d not been to the Guggenheim before and thought this was how the museum naturally was.

  • Dinty W. Moore

    I love the fact that The Cabaret del Diavolo shad three floors, dubbed “Paradise,” “Purgatory,” and the “Inferno,” named for the three parts that make up Dante’s The Divine Comedy. I wish that I could visit.

  • jba188

    The idea of an orchestral performance with lights still fascinates me. I think we sat through it three times, and it still wasn’t enough for me. I’m also always excited to see architectural hand drawings, and the Italian Futurist exhibit didn’t disappoint. The unwavering mass of these superstructures, especially from Italians, looking away from their beautiful culture of ornate architecture, is fantastic.

  • Amanda K.

    Italian Futurism is a beloved avant-garde movement discovered in the early 1900’s. I enjoyed this exhibition and viewed it multiple times, discovering something new with every walk through. Some pieces such as Gino Severini’s “Blue Dancer” reminded many of Pablo Picasso’s cubism studies. My favorite of the pieces, that I had never seen before, is the Bestetti Treves Tumminelli Book Pavilion. New York should have buildings like this, fun with architecture, and would bring life to the city. Thank you for this exhibition!

  • Vedran Misic Art

    #ItalianFuturism (response to Instagram Prize Pack): I have taken two Art History classes during my college years at Rutgers University, but Italian Futurism was not covered with the attention it deserves. This exhibition has opened my eyes to one of the most exciting art movements in the last couple of centuries. And it has introduced me to my now favorite painter, Gerardo Dottori. As I walked over to his piece, il Trittico della Velocità, I was instantly captivated by the amazing liveness of the color and movement. It looked like a moment forever captured in the future. The works I’ve seen at the exhibit have led me to uncover more works from this master. His brilliant and beautiful technique has inspired me greatly as I work on my next illustration piece in which I want to create a sense of movement and future. Thank you Guggenheim for bringing this amazing collection to New York.

  • cmcf

    It was illuminating learning about Sant’Elia’s Città Nuova; how thinking about building in terms of urban flows and the mental/cinematic landscape of the city leads to not only a more beautiful output but a more intuitive and sustainable one, particularly in terms of the multi-modal transport layers. Perhaps more artists should collaborate with urban planners.

  • amante dell’alimento

    what’s not to love about Marinetti? ok, admittedly he was a proto-fascist and a chum of Mussolini but his attempts to liberate italians from the daily ‘brutalising’ effects of pasta were both heroic and hilarious. La Cucina Futurista would be free from the weight and volume of this obsolete food. All the senses would be engaged, meals would be eaten to the accompaniment of perfumes sprayed over the diners, who with a fork in one hand could stroke various surfaces, velvet or emery paper. Weird combos suggested were nougat and mortadella, cooked salami in a bath of hot coffee with eau de cologne. And the foreign names had to go…cocktails would be polibibita (multidrink) and the maitre d’ would be a guidopalato (palate-guide).
    Hastening to the support of pasta, the mayor of Naples claimed that angels in paradise ate nothing but vermicelli al pomodoro to which Marinetti replied that this confirmed all his suspicions about the monotony of heaven. Buon appetito!

  • Dora

    Futurism has fascinated me for a long time and their belief in overwhelming changes that were coming. Until this exhibit I was not so clear on their fascination with speed. Of course it makes sense and adds a mew dimension to the prism of my understanding.

  • Sarah Best

    I liked reading about how the show was designed. I loved the idea of extending the art and taking the idea of “Total Work of Art” into an encompassing Futurist environment.

  • AyunH

    Here’s something interesting that I’ve learned…Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, a long running, late night show consisting of 30 short plays by the NeoFuturists, a Chicago based theater company – performed in random order in 60 minutes… was originally based on the performance of the Italian Futurists.

    C’mon, snake eyes! T-shirts! Passes to the Guggy!

    • Betty

      I visited Chicago and saw one of their shows. It was awesome!

  • He-3

    will find out this sat.

  • Dante A. Ciampaglia

    The thing I found really interesting (and I only noticed this on my second visit) was the Futurist architecture. It’s such a weird confluence of what would become Soviet utopian design and a kind of alienating dystopia. Also, the sketches reminded me a lot of the art direction from Batman: The Animated Series from the ’90s, as well as Anton Furst’s designs for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie. Futurism is omnipresent!

  • Matthew Cabamongan

    The most compelling fact I learned from the beautiful vignettes on the Guggenheim Blogs was the part influence of Georges Sorel philosophy of Violence on the Italian Futurist movement’s reaction to the “degenerating” capitalist, bourgeoisie nation. This is depicted by Umberto Boccioni’s Riot in the Galleria (1910). It is very pertinent today as the underground art movements – among Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party – become contemporary modicums of political critique for failing democratic institutions in an increasingly hyper-capitalist and hyper-pluralist world. It could be a clarion call for our time that we should focus on the top half of the canvas where it is all about painting and stand above the fray (in Boccioni’s Riot).

  • Cecilia Adriana Coccato

    El futurismo es un movimiento fascinante… Saint Elia, con sus dibujos de la cita nuova, me emocionaron. Soy arquitecta vivo en Argentina y ver estos dibujos originales, junto con la exposición completa me llenaron el alma….

  • Robert Schaad

    The irony of their anti-feminism stance, and that Bennedetta was one of the leading practitioners.

  • Pete

    I was pleasantly surprised by the volume, scope, and evolution of the artists and breadth of styles and works in the exhibition, as well as the expansion of the movement throughout Italy. Even after examining the Futurists’ works for many years, being able to see so many works, so well orchestrated gave me a greater understanding of the movement and many works I’d only seen in much smaller book and print formats.

  • Ignace

    I was struck by a really simple thing–the frames. It never occurred to me how integral the frames are to the paintings in the Italian Futurist movement. In this exhibition, many of the frames, designed by the artists themselves, are part and parcel of the paintings they frame. Frames at once protect, enclose, and demarcate works of art. In this exhibition, the boundaries between frame and picture are blurred, allowing for the frame to become part of the picture and vice versa. For example, Ruzena Zátková’s portrait of Marinetti is framed with a thin silver tin-like frame that almost serves to puncture the edges of the paintings. It evokes militaristic materials such as bullets, barbwire, and tin cans. In a different vein, Giacomo Balla’s “Abstract Speed + Sound” is an example in which the painted surface of the work extends into the wooden frame. In effect, the frame becomes inextricably part of the paint on canvas. This integrative approach to the frames also provides insights into the artists’ conceptions of art and how their works are to be presented and received by spectators. With examples like Balla’s chameleon-like frames, works of art, in turn, occupy a distinct time and space. Rather than having a work of art demarcated by a frame that serves to merely decorate it, the futurists may have intended for their works to exist as one–as picture and frame together.

  • Doug Collins

    Wish I could afford the admission. Every time I go to the Met, I walk past the Guggenheim and wish I were there.

    • Caitlin Dover

      Doug, we would love to have you visit the museum, too! I encourage you to stop by for pay-as-you-wish hours: Saturdays from 5:45-7:45.

      Come before the end of this month so you can catch the Italian Futurism show while it’s still in the rotunda!

  • Farbie Toothsome

    This is only one sound (of many I’m sure) to best describe this wonderful exhibition:

  • Bob Oliver

    It is a movement that I don’t believe has received its full due. It is Cubism plugged in, encompassing every aspect of modern life in its dynamic and constant movement.

  • Danielle Muoio

    I was very interested in how wide-spread Italian Futurism was as an artistic movement. Artists used painting, drawing, fashion, poetry, and even fashion to express Italian Futuristic views. I think using different mediums allowed Italian Futurism to take a strong political/ideological stance in addition to being an aesthetic movement.

  • Jason Carpio

    Did you guys know that these Italian Futurists are so into revolutionizing the experience that they even incorporated strategies towards food consumption (incorporating darkness for instance)? Ferran Adrià (of Spain’s El Bulli) was very much influenced by the Italian Futurists and that all-encompassing experience can be seen in the gastronomy.

  • Matt France

    This has got me more interested in the subject, and I’m definitely going to investigate some more.

  • Areta Cartwright

    I love this blog! I loved the futurist show and am studying the movement . Fascinating.

  • Chung

    great reference when you look at them as parallel to the russian constructivism

  • ambystone

    Really interesting to read about the connection of the Futurists and advertising, linking ideas of propaganda and thought control with historical instances like the colonization of Ethiopia by France and how it leads to the propagation of stereotypes.

  • Marie

    Just back from my first trip to Milan, where I walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II–amazing that 100 years ago Boccioni painted a riot of capitalist consumption–reminding me of Walmart on Black Friday–(ok maybe a little more bougie)–the future indeed! Bravo Boccioni and bravo Guggenheim!

  • Neenstar

    I dream of going to milan. I’ll be there someday to see for myself!

  • Artdater2014

    I always love the feeling of movement in the Futurism paintings.

  • Caitlin Dover

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses! It’s now 5 pm in New York, which means our giveaway period has ended. The winner has been contacted via e-mail.

  • frank gatto

    just saw your italian futurist show today and loved it. But i think some attributions were incorrect. For Umberto Boccioni, Development of a bottle in space was listed as from MOMA and Unique forms of continuity in space as from the MET, when i think it is just the opposite. I could be wrong.

    • Caitlin Dover

      Many thanks for your comment, Frank! We appreciate the careful attention you have given to the Futurism show. Our wall labels are prepared very carefully, and are correct. However, our curators assure me that you are correct, too, in thinking the Met and MoMA both have those sculptures. Each institution does indeed have versions of the sculptures in their respective collections. Good eye!