Depero, the futurist and the impact of futurism on Avant-garde Art

- 4 June 2010 - 22 August 2010


A joint exhibition of the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto and the Hungarian National Gallery with the sponsorship and cooperation of the Italian Embassy in Hungary and the Italian Cultural Institute in Budapest, under the Patronage of the Presidents of the Italian Republic and the Republic of Hungary, His Excellency Giorgio Napolitano and His Excellency László Sólyom under the auspices of the Honorable Sandro Bondi, Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities of the Italian Republic.

The year 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of Futurism, with a number of Futurist exhibitions held in various countries. Over the past twenty years there has been growing interest in the art of versatile Futurist painter Fortunato Depero (1892-1960), an ardent follower of Marinetti’s aesthetics. The over 100 works displayed at the Budapest show are on loan from the Museo Fortunato Depero, Rovereto, an integral part of MART, where the collection of works left by the artist to the town is housed. Living in Austrian-controlled Rovereto until 1918, Depero was in fact raised in a Central European milieu. His artistic development was influenced by Symbolism and Expressionism, and also by the schools of Jugendstil and Wiener Werkstätte. During his trip to Rome he established contact with important Futurist painters such as Boccioni, Balla, Prampolini and Marinetti. His Futurist principles were summarized in the manifesto Ricostruzione futurista dell’universo (Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe), co-authored with Giacomo Balla in 1915, proclaiming the re-creation of the universe and the extension of art to all areas of life. Through his Futurist formal experiments he envisaged mobile sculptured constructions utilising the combined impact of movement and sound effects.

In Rome, after making the acquaintance of Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes, Depero designed costumes and stage sets for Igor Stravinsky’s Le Chant du Rossignol (The Song of the Nightingale) and for Balli Plastici (Plastic Dances), a picto-plastic drama co-authored with Gilbert Clavel. Between 1916 and 1919, he left off his abstract art experimentations and went on to work towards a new iconography arising from the world of magic and fantasy. Populating his metaphysical and surreal visions with unique shapes brought to life in his pictures, Depero created a kind of meta-reality.

In the autumn of 1919 he opened his studio-workshop called Casa d’Arte Futurista Depero in Rovereto, where, based on his designs, particularly impressive, decorative tapestries, textiles, furniture, toys and graphic design works were produced. In 1929 he founded another Futurist House in New York where he continued his career as a designer. He undertook significant design commissions for the Italian company Campary, the magazines Vanity Fair and Vogue, and Roxy Theater (advertisement and stage sets). He returned to Italy in October 1930. The paintings he did in that period were inpsired by his American experience, featuring urban motifs, skyscrapers, subways, and mechanical parts as visual elements. After the war he lived in the United States for a while again, but received no more commissions. In 1959 he designed and built the first museum of Italian Futurism, the Museo Fortunato Depero which, completely refurbished as one of MART’s venues, was reopened to celebrate the centenary of Futurism. Depero died in 1960. He left all his works to the town of Rovereto.


It is part of the mission of the Hungarian National Gallery to provide opportunities for the public to view major works of Hungarian art in an international context. For this reason, the Italian exhibition that features the work of Depero is accompanied by a show of a selection of nearly sixty works by Hungarian artists who, from the 1910s onward, were applying in their works the lessons of new trends in contemporary European art. The elements Hungarian painters took over from the toolkit of Italian Futurists mainly included aspects indicating activity and revolutionary action: militant dynamism, the collision of opposing forces, the momentum of mass movements. Among the Activists in Kassák’s circle, it was especially Sándor Bortnyik, Lajos Tihanyi, Béla Uitz and János Schadl who produced graphic works revealing formal influences of the Futurists’ dynamic organisation of the pictorial space and of their broken lines of force.

Béla Kádár and Hugó Scheiber, two artists who were quite successful in the Berlin of the 1920s, discovered for themselves the late, decorative style of the Futurist/Expressionist movements. Scheiber’s compositions mainly featured the new theme of Futurist painting: the representation of vibrant city life with its speed, movement, and rhythm. In his figurative works, Béla Kádár dynamised flat surfaces to suggest space and time. The stylised motifs in some of his village scenes show remarkable similarities to Depero’s related efforts. While most of the works in the show are from the collections of the Hungarian National Gallery, a fine selection-including some pieces that have never been exhibited-comes from a private collection in Hungary. The exhibition is supplemented with a selection of contemporary publications and documents, also from the Gallery’s documentation department and from a private collection.

Curators: Gabriella Belli, art historian, Director of MART, and Mariann Gergely, art historian, chief curator of the Hungarian National Gallery

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