Italian Interdisciplinary Modernism (Part II)
The Guggenheim Museum in New York is currently working on a major exhibition on Futurism which will open in February 2014. Dr Vivien Green, curator of 19th and early 20th century art and chief curator of the show, gave us a fascinating insight into the planning of the event in her talk entitled ‘Exhibiting Italian Futurism in 2014: l’opera d’arte totale’. She literally took us on a virtual guided tour of the forthcoming exhibition, showing us how the architectural space of the museum is guiding, challenging and inspiring the way in which Italian Futurism will be presented to the American and international public in 2014. The show promises to be a major rethinking of the entire Futurist moment from its inception in 1909 to its development in the interwar years and will include some lesser known figures such as Gerardo Dottori, an excellent example of the regional reach of Futurism and the dynamic relationship within later Futurism between the periphery (Umbria and the city of Perugia in particular) and the centre which by the late 1920 and 1930 for the Futurists had shifted from Milan to Rome.
The question of the often difficult integration of music into traditional exhibition formats will be addressed by the show and forms part of the strong commitment to a truly interdisciplinary display of the Italian Futurist movement. This is especially interesting to our project since it relates to one of the specific questions which we wanted to raise during our first workshop: how does our understanding of Italian Modernism affect trends in museum display and curatorial choices? The reverse is of course also true: physical and financial constraints, curatorial choices and display trends have the potential to affect and/or obstruct our understanding of artistic movements especially when they have at their core an interdisciplinary and multimedia agenda.
I was also struck by another challenge which Dr Greene faced and raised with us: how to build layers of knowledge and information which can at once challenge and engage the general public, who may come to the show with very little previous knowledge of Italian Futurism, and those who may already possess a strong interest in the Italian avant-garde movement.
The current exhibition at the Guggenheim, Gutai: Splendid Playground, which presents Japan’s most influential avant-garde collective of the postwar era which had interesting links with the Italian neo-avanguardia, puts in sharp relief the idea of disciplinary boundaries in the postwar period which we are going to explore in the forthcoming workshops. The amazing space of the Guggenheim rotunda is now filled with a work by Motonaga Sadamasa, Water. The Guggenheim commissioned the artist ‘to recreate this work for the rotunda, where he hangs common, polyethylene tubes of varying widths filled with brightly-colored water between the rotunda levels, making giant brushstrokes out of catenaries in the open air that catch the sunlight (Work [Water], 1956/2011)’.