“Depero automatico, acrobatico” ("Depero Automatic, Acrobatic") in Mantua seeks to spotlight Italian artist Fortunato Depero.
Fortunato Depero, Costume cifrato, 1929, MART, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, Depero Collection.
© Fortunato Depero, by SIAE 2022
Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), known as the co-author with Giacomo Balla in 1915 of the Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe manifesto, was a commercial artist, designer, painter, sculptor and scenographer who explored futurist aesthetics in the theater, press, business and industry. He had a long partnership with Campari, designing the brand’s famous little bottle and advertising campaigns. In 1917, Depero was asked to design the costumes for the Ballets Russes in Rome but did not meet the deadline. During a long New York stay in 1929, he illustrated covers for Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. His desire to build bridges with industrial production is one of the exhibition’s themes, yet it is hardly evoked, and the others are treated just as superficially. An elegant presentation glosses over guesswork and confusion. One wonders about the purpose of such an exhibition, which, in its own way, draws a straight line between today's Italian fashion and design, and Depero's experiments. The emphasis is on aesthetics, but without contextualization or allusions to cultural or social implications: the sources are forgotten, as are the similar contemporary European experiments. While Paris and New York conspicuously feature in the exhibition layout, the artist is obscured in narrow provincialism. The tensions between vernacular inspiration and international aesthetics are absent and a dubious, premeditated parallel is drawn between Depero's trajectory and that of fascism.