Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe at the Guggenheim

future sculptureIf someone asked me to describe Italians in one word I would say “relaxed”. In the early 20th century some of the Italian artists were anything but.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who was the founder of the Futurist artistic movement, thought himself a revolutionary. He wrote the Futurist Manifesto in 1909 which sounds more like the ranting of a lunatic… “We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness…..we want to glorify war – the only cure for the world….We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism….” and so on.

This was one crazy militant-sounding group of artists that included Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and Carlo Carra. They produced work that I thought was groundbreaking for the time although not quite earth shattering when you think about similar work that was being done elsewhere at the same time.


Initially the Futurist founding artists were influenced by the cubist movement while visiting Paris. Cubism served as a catalyst giving them direction. From art to architecture, clothing, ceramics, film, furniture, literature, music, poetry and theater – the Futurists took what they saw, broke it down and then recreated it. They believed that the machines would benefit society and brought this belief to their art. Form, sound and color were used to create the sense of movement, speed and power. You can feel the sense of speed in much of what is on display at the Guggenheim.

The work that came out of the Futurist movement influenced art in the 20th century and we continue to see its influence today, but the rhetoric that came from this group could be considered vehemently inflammatory. This may be why a retrospective of this magnitude has never been done before in the United States.

Kudos to the Guggenheim for curating this exhibit and bringing it to the public.

Admission to the Guggenheim is $22/adults but on Saturday between 5:45-7:45 you may pay what you wish. And don’t forget the Carrie Mae Weems exhibit. Two amazing exhibits at the same time.


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