The Birth of the Avant-garde

01 October 2022 – 26 February 2023


“Futurism. The birth of the avant-garde 1910-1915”, presented at Palazzo Zabarella in Padua, curated by Fabio Benzi, Francesco Leone and Fernando Mazzocca, is an exceptional exhibition that investigates the origins of the movement in a completely new way, offering a new and original viewpoint and inviting visitors to discover an artistic world until now little or never revealed. Although numerous exhibitions on Futurism have been held over the past forty years, none have ever focused critically and comprehensively on its cultural and figurative premisses, its roots and on the different spirits and many themes that contributed first to the birth and then the outbreak and full configuration of this movement that so disruptively characterised Western art research in the first half of the twentieth century.

“Futurism”, first and foremost, means “art of the future”, and, indeed, among the avant-gardes of the twentieth century, it is the one most driven by a revolutionary sense of renewal, of rebellion against tradition and of faith in the possibilities offered by the future and its technical innovations. The first generation Futurist artists - primarily Umberto Boccioni, and then Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Antonio Sant’Elia, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini - set themselves the aim of revitalising figurative art because it was no longer acceptable that this should continue to give voice to subjects so removed from reality, often tied to religious and mythological subjects.

Futurism was posited as the means of breaking with the patterns of the past, also arising as a precursor to the ideas and experiences of Dadaism, the Russian avant-gardes and the neo-avant-gardes of the second half of the twentieth century. It thus interpreted a genuine artistic “revolution”, which saw as its ideal a “total” work of art that would go beyond the excessively narrow confines of painting and sculpture to engage all the senses, making extreme chromatic contrast, simultaneity (to determine the dynamic effect) and penetration (to free the object from its confines) its salient features.

The more than 120 works that unfold in a crescendo through the rooms of Palazzo Zabarella recount all this and much more. They are all from a fairly restricted chronological period, from 1910, the year the movement was founded in the painting sphere, to 1915, when publication of the Manifesto della Ricostruzione Futurista dell’Universo and Italy’s entry into the War marked a watershed in the movement’s artistic research. Exceptional works, some previously unshown or rarely exhibited, on loan from more than 45 international galleries, museums and collections, make up a genuinely unique selection that in itself denotes the prestige of the exhibition.

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