The Legend of Speed
Art, Motorization and Society in 20th Century Italy
Curated by Eugenio Martera and Patrizia Pietrogrande
February 19th – May 18th 2008
Speed is the focal point of this fascinating and scenically spectacular exhibition produced by Contemporanea Progetti and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo, a theme developed in all its forms through a chronological overview of the 20th century that goes on to explore a range of entrancing future scenarios. Engines and their inseparable links with art will constitute the primary basis for exploration and interpretation of other key strands such as design, cinema and fashion in a trajectory encapsulating a century of Italian life. Automobiles of various periods, motorcycles, aeroplanes, period photographs and videos will accompany the visitors on a journey of mind and body, both cultural and sensory, through the history of Italy as seen through the eyes of those who conceived, wrote and experienced it in a state of constant acceleration.
The exhibition will focus on the most significant moments in the history of speed in Italy: the Futurism of Marinetti, the birth of the great automobile companies, the conquest of the third dimension and the heavens, the history of the work of the great car designers, the Italian economic boom and the acceleration of communications due to the great new frontier of Internet, all the way up to our day and the rich and still unexplored world of modern speed. Fascinating and crucial scientific contributions from the National Institute for Nuclear Physics will prompt the visitor to reflect on three particular aspects of the concept of speed: the speed of light, the speed of matter and the speed of information. The spectacular and unprecedented combination of engines, figurative arts, film, fashion and design will demonstrate how the concept of speed and its associated myth influenced and transformed life during the 20th century, radically changing society, language and the forms of expression of matter as well as the speed of the information.
The central area of the building will host a section devoted to racing and the record-breaking drivers, cars and motorcycles in a long sequence ideally retracing the most significant stages in the history of speed in Italy. It is in fact in car and motorcycle racing that the most innovative technical breakthroughs are developed and tried out, a field where the best of two-wheel and four-wheel technology finds application still today. This section will take us through the history of racing cars and motorcycles, all the way from the Fiat 130 HP Grand Prix, loaned by the Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia National Automobile Museum in Turin, to Schumacher's Ferrari of own day. The various stages of this journey will present automobiles of undisputed merit such as the 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo Gran Premio Tipo C of 1936 from the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, the Maserati Eldorado of 1958 from the Umberto Panini Collection, the legendary Alfetta of 1951 and many others. Speed on two wheels will also be represented by extraordinary items thanks to the cooperation of all the major Italian companies, from the S.I.A.M.T. of 1911, the Frera of 1923, the 4-cylinder Gilera Rondine of 1936, the 4-valve Motoguzzi C of 1924, the Vespa Circuito of 1949, the Ducati Marianna of 1955 and Agostini's MV Agusta of 1965 all the way up the Aprilia SRW of 250 cc champion Jorge Lorenzo and Stoner's Ducati Desmosedici.
The first section will be devoted to the "beauty of speed", a new type of beauty that enriched the Futurist aesthetic. The exhibition will indeed open with fundamental works of the Futurist period that drew inspiration from this very concept. Particular attention will be focused on Filippo Tommaso Marinetti as well as the whole range of fields explored by the Futurist movement, including cinema and photography as well as fashion with garments designed by Crali, Depero and Thayat. Industrial and mechanical progress will be encapsulated in a series of elements constituting semantic hallmarks of the modern era: the automobile, the train, the railway station, the motorway, telephones and the radio. The most important works of art in this room include Dottori's magnificent Trittico della velocità, Severini's Tram in corsa and numerous works by Balla, Boccioni and Depero together with previously unexhibited archival material from the Vittoriale degli Italiani at Gardone Riviera. Important drawings and original items from the MART collections will document the Futurist experiments and developments in photography and fashion.
The second section will concentrate primarily in speed in the heavens and include works of art by members of the Aeropainting movement such as Crali, Tato, Delle Site, D'Anna and many others. An original Fiat C29 seaplane from the Italian Air Force Museum at Vigna di Valle will occupy the centre of the room. Photographs and material regarding Italy's great achievements and records in the early decades of the century will complete this section thanks to the invaluable cooperation of the Gianni Caproni Aeronautical Museum in Trento. Attention will also focus on Gabriele D'Annunzio and his historic exploits.
The third section will instead examine the history of Italian automobile design through prototypes, projects and vehicles developed by the greatest Italian designers. Flaminio Bertoni, Nuccio Bertone, Dante Giocosa, Pininfarina and Vittorio Jano are just some of the figures highlighted. The cars exhibited will include extraordinary milestones in the history of design like the Alfa Romeo 6 C 1750 Gran Sport, the Giulietta SS and the Cisitalia 202 Gran Sport, the first car to be exhibited at the MoMA in New York. By virtue of its wholly innovative lines, comparable to a stupendous work of contemporary art, it was in fact displayed under the title Sculpture in Motion. There will in any case be no lack of art, with magnificent works by Salvatore Scarpitta, Ivanoe Gambini and Gianfilippo Usellini.
The fourth section will focus on the 1950s, the period of Italy's economic boom, described in all its explosive drive for "movement". The "speed of growth" will be documented through items connected with the car industry but also fashion, design and cinema. The cars exhibited will be symbols of that era: a Fiat 500 from the Italian Fiat 500 Club, a Lancia Aurelia B24 from the Lancia Collection and the legendary Vespa GS from the Piaggio Museum at Pontedera. Fashion and design will again play a key part with magnificent garments by Pucci, Roberta di Camerino and Missoni together with historical items such as the Algol television set and the Valentine typewriter. The key focus on figurative art will continue with works of kinetic art by the MID group, Grazia Varisco, Alberto Biasi, Gabriele De Vecchi, Davide Boriani and Eugenio Carmi, exemplifying their concept of space linked once again to motion.
The fifth section will address the acceleration in the field of communications that took place over the 1980s and 1990s with fax machines, cellular telephones, computers and fibre optics. Together with the Olivetti Elea 9003, Italy's first electronic computer and one of the first in the world to be entirely transistorized, the items on display will document Italy's contributions in the computer field through the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and the great discoveries of Carlo Rubbia connected with particle acceleration. There will in any case be no lack of splendid items on four wheels. The Lamborghini Miura and Alfa Romeo Carabo will serve together with the fascinating sketches by Giugiaro and Lamborghini to document the change in line and design that took place in the 1970s. Fashion and cinema again will make their presence felt with the showing of cult movies like Nirvana and splendid clothes by Valentino, Versace, Sarli and others. The focus on design also continues with fax machines and computers by De Lucchi, Bellini and Sottsass as well as drawings and creations by Iosa Ghini for Memphis. Fine works by Scarpitta, Schifano, Alighiero & Boetti, Mambor, Munari, Piacentino and Ontani will represent the art of this period.
The sixth section will focus on technology, design and the great Italian car designers with extraordinary prototypes constituting symbols of speed in the 21st century, experimental automobiles designed for demonstration purposes and making it possible to develop new products for future production.