Art With A Stigma: Italian Futurism in NYC

"We intend to destroy museums, libraries, academies of every sort, and to fight against moralism, feminism..."

That is part of the legendary Italian Futurism manifesto, published in 1909 by Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti on the French newspaper Le Figaro. Even though the movement wanted to destroy museums, its work is now at a major one in New York, the Guggenheim, for its first comprehensive retrospective in the United States.

Although the movement ended in 1944, a retrospective is happening only now because Futurism had a stigma attached to it. WNYC's art critic Deborah Solomon says Marinetti denounced museums, women, film, institutions, and even pasta.

"It comes packaged with the silliest ideas in the history of art," she said. "The futurists sometimes can sound like a group of high school punks."

Solomon adds some of the art is better than the ideas, especially the early works.

Still, the Guggenheim show ends with what is considered the biggest criticism against Futurism: some of the art was propaganda for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

"That explains why Futurism never went anywhere and why the Italians kind of felt out of the story of modern art in the latter 20th century," said Solomon.

Umberto Boccioni's "Elasticity," painted in 1912. Oil on canvas.
Umberto Boccioni's "Elasticity," painted in 1912. Oil on canvas. ( courtesy of Museo del Novecento, Milan and the Guggenheim. )
Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo, a piece by Francesco Cangiullo from 1914. Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper.
Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo, a piece by Francesco Cangiullo from 1914. Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper. ( courtesy of private collection and the Guggenheim. )
Tullio Crali's "Before the Parachute Opens," painted in 1939. Oil on panel.
Tullio Crali's "Before the Parachute Opens," painted in 1939. Oil on panel. ( courtesy of Casa Cavazzini, Museo d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Udine, Italy and the Guggenheim. )
"Descending over San Pietro," a print made by Filippo Masoero between 1927-1937.
"Descending over San Pietro," a print made by Filippo Masoero between 1927-1937. ( courtesy of Touring Club Italiano Archive, Milan and the Guggenheim. )
Carlo Carrá's "Interventionist Demonstration," created from tempera, pen, mica powder, and paper glued on cardboard, was created in 1914.
Carlo Carrá's "Interventionist Demonstration," created from tempera, pen, mica powder, and paper glued on cardboard, was created in 1914. ( courtesy of Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice )
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