Casa Balla. From the house to the universe and back
MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome
June 17 – November 21, 2021
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Balla’s birth, the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts is celebrating him with an exceptional project, namely the first-ever opening to the public of his incredible Futurist house in Via Oslavia, Rome – a total work of art -, as well as an exhibition at MAXXI highlighting its extraordinary topicality and creating a connection in space and time. The Casa Balla. From Home to the Universe and Back project, curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Director of MAXXI Arte, and Domitilla Dardi, MAXXI‘s Design Curator, will open to the public in two stages: the exhibition at MAXXI will begin on 17 June, while the house in Via Oslavia will be open to visitors at weekends as of Friday 25 June. Casa Balla and the MAXXI exhibition will be open until 21 November 2021.
The project is the product of remarkable inter-institutional synergy and has been produced by MAXXI in collaboration with the Special Superintendence for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape of Rome, with the support of the General Directorate for Contemporary Creativity of the Italian Ministry of Culture and the contribution of the Bank of Italy and sponsors Laura Biagiotti, Mastercard and Cassina. Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Director of MAXXI Arte and curator of the project, said: “Casa Balla. Dalla casa all’universo e ritorno is an important new stage in MAXXI’s great effort to enhance and reinterpret our historical and contemporary artistic heritage. After being closed for thirty years, Giacomo Balla’s house is finally coming back to life by opening its doors to the public for the first time.
With its decorations, furniture and works of art, the house represents the artist’s personality in all its facets and constitutes one of his greatest masterpieces. Through the reopening of the Futurist master’s home, we are recovering a part of our DNA, as well as one of the greatest stories of 20th-century art, which forever changed the way art is made, conceived and experienced. This exceptional event is complemented by the exhibition in MAXXI’s Gallery 5, where Italian and international artists and creatives shed light on an understanding of present-day art derived from the teachings of Balla and Futurism, a concept made up of continuous intersections between different lingos and expressive techniques, a profound link with everyday life and a constant challenge to the limits of traditional categories of expression“.
Domitilla Dardi, the curator of the project, said, “The modernity envisioned by Balla and his daughters is something we are very familiar with today: it speaks of the of overcoming of disciplinary barriers, of conceptual influences and mixtures, of the coexistence of abstract and figurative language. Above all, it speaks of the link between art and life: the Balla family’s act of experiencing their own art without interruption is what makes their work a ‘diffuse project’ that involves paintings as much as dishes, sculptures, furniture, but also the clothes they wore, thereby becoming moving works of art themselves. It is no coincidence that the great designers of the 1970s found their roots in this approach, and their contemporaries are able to continue their reflections with ease, now that that future has become our present”.
During the visit, visitors will feel a sense of excitement as they stand in front of the main door bearing the FuturBalla plaque/signature, which heralds the wonders and surprises that will be revealed as they immerse themselves in the artist’s extraordinary home-universe: from the corridor to the living room, where visitors will be shown the Italian version of the Balla et le Futurisme docufilm by Jack Clemente, winner of the Golden Lion award at the 1972 Venice Film Biennale, from the famous red study to Luce and Elica’s rooms, from the kitchen to the beautiful bathroom.
The Balla family has transformed an anonymous, bourgeois flat into a unique work of art, a laboratory for experimentation made up of painted walls and doors, decorated furniture and fittings, self-made utensils, paintings and sculptures, clothes designed and sewn at home and many other objects that come together to create a unique, kaleidoscopic total project. This sunny, colourful, dynamic house reflects the ideas of the Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe manifesto written by Balla and Fortunato Depero in 1915, but goes even beyond that.
For Balla, Futurist dynamism translates into continuous creation, which is why his house became a sort of ancient Renaissance workshop where simple, albeit very creative objects designed and built for everyday life (tables, chairs, shelves, easels, plates, tiles) coexist with paintings, drawings and sculptures. A number of important works housed there, including drawings and preparatory sketches that have recently been restored and exhibited either in the house or at MAXXI, bear witness to the different phases of the Turin-born artist’s research, from an initial figurative period at the turn of the century to the Futurist aesthetics and ideology of the 1920s (witness the three large panels of Le mani del popolo italiano) and a late return to the pure representation of reality. Casa Balla also houses several paintings by Luce and Elica, namely the artist’s daughters.