BLOG: Futurism at Tate Modern
Futurism at Tate Modern
Published 19 June 2009 by TM

I visited the Futurism exhibition at Tate Modern yesterday, before A Hawk And A Hacksaw's gig at Cecil Sharp House.

Like Punk, Futurism was a movement that burned briefly but brightly, and its afterglow dramatically influenced a host of European art movements throughout the 20th Century, including Cubism and Vorticism. I've long been drawn to the extraordinary graphic design produced in this period, that similarly influenced people like Peter Saville at Factory and Trevor Horn and Paul Morley at ZTT (Zang Tuum Tumb and The Art Of Noise both take their names from Futurist works), but I found most of the paintings by the original Futurists a bit dull, if I'm honest.

The theories and manifestos are more interesting, though I'm conflicted by the aggressive masculinity and misogyny of the Italian Futurists - founder FT Marinetti was clearly a sexist boor and a bombastic speed freak and the sort of person you would probably avoid at parties. It's very easy to see how some of Futurism's advocates were irresistibly drawn to fascism. And yet, like Malcolm McLaren 65 years later, Marinetti's controversial and uncompromisingly anarchic manifestos still make for exhilarating reading.

Particularly notable, and the reason I'm writing this now, is his manifesto for Vital English Art, written with the English painter CRW Nevinson, which I hadn't come across before. An extravagant self-publicist, Marinetti was always looking to stir things up for his own ends, but many of these arguments are a kick up the arse for English artists even today. You can read the whole thing here.

Bookmark and Share