100 Years of the Futurist ManifestoBy Phil Patton
It is the 100th anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto, as Chris Bangle, design chief of BMW, noted to me recently.
Published in the French newspaper Le Figaro on Feb. 20, 1909, by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet and writer, the Futurist Manifesto was one of the first documents to celebrate the automobile as an object of beauty and to cite speed and acceleration as aesthetic elements. “We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed,” Marinetti proclaimed.
“A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace,” he continued in the most memorable passage.
Celebrating power and speed, praising daring and danger, the Futurists created blurry paintings and shingled sculpture. The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London are two institutions holding special exhibitions commemorating the document.
But the Futurists had a short run: World War I soon gave culture more speed and power than anyone wanted. Several Futurists ended up as disgruntled fascists.
The legacy of the Futurists lies less in their own art than in the inspiration they provided designers like Mr. Bangle, who has often said that automobiles are “mobile works of art” and “the sculptures of our everyday lives.”