Museo Del Novecento Inaugurates World’s Largest Collection of Masterpieces of Futurism

Thanks to the long-term loan of the Mattioli Collection, the Milan museum devoted to 20th-century art now features an unprecedented collection of works of Futurist art.

As a first step toward a thorough renovation of the museum-which will also include its sister building on Piazza Duomo-the Museo del Novecento has opened a new gallery devoted to Futurist art. Margherita Gnaccolini

The Museo del Novecento is working diligently to double the number of exhibition spaces it already has, greatly enhancing Milan’s cultural offerings. The arrival of the Gianni Mattioli Collection, which includes 26 noteworthy works from the early Italian 20th century, is an unparalleled milestone that marks the beginning of this project. The new works interact naturally and seamlessly with the permanent collection of the museum, ranging from Boccioni to Sironi, from Modigliani to Carrà and Morandi.

The Gallery of Futurism, probably the most famous Italian art movement, which had its major events specifically in Milan, is where the most prominent nucleus is displayed. In the framework of the cultural upheavals of the avant-gardes that supported the arts in Europe at the time, Futurism is the trend that drastically characterizes the shift to modernity. The group’s manifestos and programmatic texts, which founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti signed, described the group’s lyrical demands: dynamism, the “beauty of speed,” and modern existence. Boccioni, Balla, Carrà, Severini, and Sironi were the interpreters of this new sensibility.

The protagonists of that enterprise, when they were not touring or travelling the world with their exhibitions, concerts and “futurist happenings,” used to meet in Milan at Marinetti’s home on Corso Venezia or in the lively restaurants in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Therefore, the museum that devotes unique attention to this period of art history and, thanks to the Mattioli Collection, now the largest collection of works devoted to futurism in the world, could only be established in Milan.

The gallery of Futurism is the first part of the collection visitors encounter upon entering the museum; after walking up the entrance ramp. Now viewers are greeted by Boccioni’s iconic sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.” Photo by Margherita Gnaccolini.

Boccioni’s famous sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space”, the museum’s icon, welcomes visitors in the first room, confronting two masterpieces by the same artist, “Dynamism of a Cyclist” and “Dynamism of a Human Body”.

Here begins a completely revamped gallery, a roundup of masterpieces addressing all Futurist pictorial techniques and innovations including “Twilight” and the sketch of Boccioni’s “The Rising City”; the iconographic swirl of Carlo Carrà’s “Interventionist Manifestation”; the unrestrained dances of fashionable clubs depicted by Severini in “La Chahuteuse” and the swirling glitter of the sequin-studded “Blue Dancer”; the study of movement and speed in Giacomo Balla’s works such as “Mercury Transits Before the Sun”.

As a focal counterpoint, on the back wall of the long Gallery, the museum welcomes Boccioni’s monumental painting “Matter”, a portrait of the artist’s mother on a balcony, which brings together his most innovative expression in a true pictorial manifesto.

On the second floor, the renovated itinerary continues with an unprecedented dialogue of two masterful portraits executed by Modigliani a few years apart, art dealer Paul Guillaume and his painter friend Franck Haviland.

New arrangements in the itinerary allow works by Mario Sironi, such as “Composizione con elica” and “Il cavallo bianco” from the Mattioli Collection, to be juxtaposed in a beautiful metaphysical triptych, alongside “Ballerina” from the Jucker Collection, introducing the opulence of the 1920s.

The 26 masterpieces from the Mattioli collection-which grew out of Gianni Mattioli’s passion for futurism-are now the core of a renewed gallery of futurism at the Museo del Novecento. Photo by Margherita Gnaccolini.

Giorgio Morandi was Gianni Mattioli’s favourite painter, and a monographic room is devoted to his works. As many as six canvases from the Collection are now part of the museum as a tribute to the great Bolognese painter.

Gianni Mattioli was born in Milan in 1903, he was an art-loving businessman and a friend of Futurists Depero and Azari. He began collecting modern art to create a collection of selected masterpieces of 20th-century art. Giacomo Rossi, Gianni Mattioli’s grandson, decided to loan his priceless collection to the Milan museum as a sign of continuity with the educational and social intent of his grandfather, who had already opened an exhibition space on Via Senato in the 1970s.

The renovated exhibition galleries have been redesigned in collaboration with architect Italo Rota, author of the transformation of the Palazzo dell’Arengario into the spaces of the Museo del Novecento.

Katherine Thomson is an arts critic in Milan.