Step inside Giacomo Balla’s colourful universe
On the 150th anniversary of Futurist artist Giacomo Balla’s birth, MAXXI opens the doors to his former home, Casa Balla in Rome, while an exhibition at the museum highlights the extraordinary relevance of Futurism and its themes
Rome’s MAXXI pays homage to Futurist artist Giacomo Balla and his legacy through an exhibition at the museum – titled ‘Casa Balla: From the House to the Universe and Back’ (until 21 November 2021) and curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and Domitilla Dardi – and the opening to the public of Balla’s Rome apartment for the first time.
The apartment, Casa Balla, will be open to visit each weekend from 25 June until 21 November 2021, for an intimate experience of the artist’s creative universe.
Casa Balla: a kaleidoscopic project
Giacomo Balla lived and worked at the Via Oslavia apartment from 1929 until his death in 1958, while his daughters (painters Luce and Elica Balla) looked after the property until the 1990s. The city of Rome’s Special Superintendence of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape acquired the apartment in 2004 and has been painstakingly restoring it to its original colourful splendor.
During their stay, the Balla family transformed what was an anonymous, classic bourgeois Roman apartment into a living work of art. It is, say the curators: ‘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 dynamic approach to the home is an example of the ‘Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe’, a 1915 manifesto by Balla and fellow artist Fortunato Depero that read: ‘We Futurists Balla and Depero want to achieve this total merger in order to reconstruct the universe by cheering it up, that is, by recreating it in its entirety.’ Taking the Futurist notion of continuous creation literally, Balla approached his home as a workshop where mundane objects and furniture were treated like works of art and coexisted with paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Visitors to Casa Balla can get a glimpse into the artist’s creative process, thanks to recently restored drawings and preparatory sketches from his work.
‘Casa Balla: From the House to the Universe and Back’ at MAXXI
The Casa Balla visit is meant as a companion to the exhibition at MAXXI, offering further insight into the artist’s life. At the museum, meanwhile, a series of works including tapestries, drawings, sketches, and furniture originally from Casa Balla will be shown alongside eight new works by contemporary international architects, artists and designers. Especially created for the exhibition, these include works by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, Jim Lambie, Space Popular, and Cassina with Patricia Urquiola (the company also reissued Balla’s ‘Paravento Balla’ room divider in 2020).
‘The modernity envisioned by Balla and his daughters is something we are very familiar with today: it speaks of the overcoming of disciplinary barriers, of conceptual influences and mixtures, of the coexistence of abstract and figurative language,’ says Dardi. ‘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.’ §