Full Immersion Futurism At Home
Rome has many personalities, depending on what you want. It can be ancient and underground, it can be Caravaggio and churches, it can be food and fun but lately for me, the Eternal City is Futurist. Futurism was an early 1900s movement that celebrated the new century and its technological advancements through mind-blowing, abstract-ish art. (And also some motorcycle riding). Artist Giacomo Balla was the poster boy for Futurism – from his paintings and manifesto to his Roman apartment. Thanks to Museo MAXXI and the City of Rome, we can visit Casa Balla in Rome.
Giacomo Balla’s Roman Apartment
In 1895, artist Giacomo Balla moved to Rome to expand his artistic endeavors in the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy. A second wave Divisionist (think Seurat but Italian), Balla was believed in the advancement of society for the advancement of all its people, which is why he was captivated by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s 1909 Futurist Manifesto.
Futurism was born as an art and social movement celebrating dynamism, speed, technology, youth, industry and even violence, with Marinetti and Balla on board as it founders. The art was crazy, and color. But Balla, it wasn’t just paintings, Futurism was a lifestyle with an aim to “reconstruct the universe” which is exactly what the Torino- born artist did when he moved into his Via Oslavia apartment in 1929.
From 1929 to 1958, Balla lived (and worked) full immersion Futurism in his apartment on Via Oslavia and it was a family affair. His wife Elisa and daughters Luce and Elica, whose names mean Light and Propeller, two fundamentals in Futurism, were artists who together helped transform a regular Roman apartment into kaleidoscopic, all-encompassing creativity universe.
Light, dynamism, movement and color in every single room, and with in every intention. Every wall, door, shelf and floor was painted with movement of shapes and colors. All furniture was designed and decorated by Balla and family.
Kitchen chairs, flatware, bowls, vases, utensils and linens are all Balla. The bathroom walls are lined with Balla tiles, light fixtures, vases and shelfs. The main corridor is ceiling to floor Balla and Futurism, and even features Futurist clothing.
Each bedroom is Futurist full immersion from the Balla-made bed frames to the upholstery, linens lighting and rugs.Wall tiles, were designed and painted paintings and sculptures, clothing and so much much. Consider Casa Balla a workshop where functionality and aesthetics coexist.
Elica and Luce lived in the apartment until the early 1990s, continuing their Futurist lifestyle and in 2004, the city of Rome’s Special Superintendence of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape acquired the apartment and in collaboration with MAXXI, restored the Futurist home.
A visit Giacomo Balla’s Futurist home Casa Balla in Rome requires an advance reservation. Plan to spend one hour in a private group tour of maximum 12 people.
Find Futurism in Rome
La Galleria Nazionale, Italy’s national gallery for modern and contemporary art is a beautiful neo-classical palace with an incredible collection of who’s who in Italian art. Ever since its early 20th century founding, La Galleria Nazionale has been chronicling Italian art history and has a selection of Futurism with paintings from Balla as well Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini, Carlo Carrà, and Fortunato Depero, as well as later Futurist propaganda art. La Galleria’s 2020s curation is off-beat and non-chronological.
Though La Galleria Nazionale does not have everyone’s favorite Dynamismo of a Dog on a Leash (1912) that cute bassotto (Daschsund) in motion, the collection includes his earlier divisionist paintings like Villa Borghese (above) and La Pazza, as well as Futurist works like Insidie di guerra and Espansione dinamica + velocità (1915). Also in the collection (though potentially in storage) is a 1945 family portrait set in a Balla bedroom.
I love Futurism and lucky for me, Futurism is all over Rome if you just know where to look. Manifesto scribe F.T. Marinetti lived at Piazza Adriana 11, just behind Castel Sant’Angelo. The Futurists used to ride motorcycles up and down via del Corso, and would drink heavily at Caffe Aragno (now the location of Rome’s Apple store). On Via della Croce, a tiny street between Piazza di Spagna and Via del Corso, the tiny slippers, sandals and shoe accessories shop at No. 40 had a hand-painted sign with the words Pantofole in gorgeous slanted and shadowed script supposedly painted by a Futurist in 1937.
Sadly, the Pantofole shop is no longer in business, and the sign was removed. To make up for it, Fiaschetteria Beltramme, one of the few of its kind (think pared down trattoria from the 1930s) stil lhas the sketches from some of its more famous and artsy guests like Giorgio De Chirico, Mario Schifano, Alberto Moravia, PierPaolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini. And it’s great place for homemade pasta and fish dishes like Tonarelli alla Corsara, thick spaghettti like pasta with mussels, cherry tomatoes and Pecorino Romano.