The beauty of speed versus the Nike of Samothrace
- Tommaso Berra
In the fourth point of the Manifesto of Futurism, published by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909 to summarize one of the most significant avant-garde experiences of the 20th century, the artist writes: "We affirm that the magnificence of the world has been enriched with a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its hood adorned with large snake-like tubes with explosive breath... a roaring automobile, which seems to run on machine gun fire, is more beautiful than the Nike of Samothrace."
In the futurists' new conception of beauty then, cars were to be the alternative to classical art masterpieces. More suited to represent the speed, risk and force of industrialization, more capable of describing a future that Marinetti, as well as Balla or Boccioni, were eager to learn about. Cars thus entered early on among the subjects represented in Futurist works, but the experience of traveling by car as a metaphor for life also became one of the themes treated by literati close to the movement such as Gabriele D'Annunzio. Giacomo Balla had a distinct passion for the design of new cars in fact, there are over 100 of his works depicting this subject. The artist would not only want to represent the object but express its essence and dynamism. Marinetti was particularly fascinated by racing cars and the birth of early competitions. The tubes of the Fiat 130 HP that won with the French Grand Prix in 1907 were described by the artist as "snakes," while the FIAT S74 and S76, used for speed records in the early 1900s, were a plastic representation of the world the futurists dreamed of.The futurists perceived the automobile as a tool to push toward an oval dynamism, the same dynamism that allows for a better understanding of generational transitions and at the same time exalts the future as a tool for understanding the present. Umberto Boccioni in "Auto in corsa (Caccia alla volpe)" of 1904 already carries out research on the whirling of wheels even before Marinetti's manifesto, choosing a realistic style, very different from that of Luigi Russolo with "Dinamismo di un'automobile," a work that we can consider abstract. Giacomo Balla as already mentioned is the most prolific artist of this strand, "Automobile Speed + Lights," "Automobile Racing" (1912-13), "Rhythm + Noise + Automobile Speed" (1913) are just some of the works in which the car becomes a work of art. There is also Mario Sironi among the artists fascinated by speed, as well as Gerardo Dottori, who precisely dedicated "Trittico della velocità" to speed in 1924. Marinetti when writing the fourth point of the Manifesto tells us two things: the first is that even the most dynamic of classical statues cannot compete with the new dynamism of the future. The second, on the other hand, is that cars, in their technology and technical perfection, are the new art, and who knows if the Futurists were not already turning, looking to the future, to us.