Casa d'Arte Futurista Depero
Casa d'Arte Futurista Depero is the only museum founded by a Futurist – Depero himself, in 1957 – as an irreverent, visionary project: innovation, irony, and breaking down of all hierarchies in the arts. Depero, a true pioneer of contemporary design, personally designed every detail: the mosaics, the furniture, the painted panels. He died in 1960, shortly after the opening. On 17 January 2009, to mark the centenary of Futurism, Mart refocused the Museum and gave Casa Depero a new life.
A complex restoration led by architect Renato Rizzi recovered the original areas designed by the artist, completing them with two new levels directly inspired by Fortunato Depero's taste. Inside are paintings, drawings, patchwork tapestries, furniture, and toys. The building is a ten-minute walk from Mart, in the elegant historic centre of medieval Rovereto.
Discover Casa Depero
"Architecture (...) should in itself give and have the imprint of the museum. It should be the trademark, the stamp of attraction, the appeal of the environment, a mantle of poignant propaganda and of honourable, dignified housing of the work."
Fortunato Depero, 1957
Casa d'Arte Futurista Depero, Mart's second site in Rovereto, was the result of a project to extend and restore the Depero Museum, which was founded by the artist in 1959 as the first and only Futurist museum in Italy.
In 1957, Fortunato Depero signed an agreement with the Municipality of Rovereto for the use of a public space to exhibit the works and archive materials still in his possession. In exchange for using the three floors of this ancient building, formerly a nursing home and then a pawnshop, Depero committed to leaving a collection of around 3,000 objects to the community. The museum was inaugurated by the artist only a year before his death and was then managed by his wife Rosetta, before eventually coming under the control of the city council.
Carta intestata “Galleria e Museo Fortunato Depero”, 1957 Mart, Archivio del ‘900, Fondo Depero
Letterhead “Galleria e Museo Fortunato Depero”, 1957 Mart, Archivio del ‘900, Fondo Depero
Schizzi di arredamento, decorazioni e allestimenti per il progetto del Museo Depero
Sketches of furniture, decorations and fittings for the Depero Museum project
The restoration project, directed by architect Renato Rizzi and completed in 2009 on the occasion of the centenary of Futurism, enhances the historic buildings (in addition to the original building, Casa Caden was completely emptied to make room for service and reception areas) with choices designed to make it more functional while respecting its essence.
The stairs and some of the exhibition spaces are not directly abutting the perimeter walls. A gap runs along all three floors of the building, creating the impression that the museum is enclosed within the building like a treasure chest. One floor at a time, you discover the fantastic world of Fortunato Depero.
Casa Depero. Corte interna
Casa Depero. Inner courtyard
A walk to Casa Depero
Fortunato Depero, after completing his studies in Rovereto, discovered the Futurist avant-garde in Rome in 1913. Two years later he officially joined the Futurist artists’ group and published, together with Giacomo Balla, the manifesto “Ricostruzione futurista dell’Universo” [Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe"], a text that clearly conveys his intention not to limit his activity to painting or sculpture, but rather to completely reinvent everyday life in the name of the new Futurist aesthetic.
At the origin of this new conception of making art is the conviction that there are no major and minor arts, and that the work of the artist must involve everyday life in order to redesign its shapes and colours. Depero was a dynamic character who tackled painting, sculpture, design, advertising and theatre with the same enthusiasm.
In the self-portrait “Diabolicus" (1924-26) he appears heroic and vaguely Mephistophelian as he climbs the Dolomites; the mountains, stylised behind him, seem to prefigure the gigantism of New York architecture that he would discover a few years later when he moved to America.
Fortunato Depero, “Diabolicus”, 1924-26
Fortunato Depero, “Diabolicus”, 1924-26, oil on canvas, Mart
Room 2. Eco della Stampa [Echo of the Press]
The room was conceived by Depero as a testimonial to his activity. The furnishings and decoration of the "Echo of the Press" section, which contains numerous examples of his work as an illustrator and graphic designer in the publishing field, are all by the artist.
Among the printed volumes is the famous “Libro imbullonato ”[Bolted Book], with its characteristic punched out edges. The cardboard cover is closed by aluminium bolts, but a limited edition also featured a metal cover, five years ahead of Marinetti's libro-litolatta [metal book].
In this extraordinary book, which was influenced by the new aesthetic of mechanicism, Depero summarised his first fifteen years of activity; he collected conceptual texts dealing with the theme of advertising and art (including the manifesto “Necessità di auto-réclame” [The need for self-advertising]), and experimented with new forms of binding, visual communication and typography.
The book was a promotional tool not only for Depero's artistic activity, but also for the publishing house founded by his friend Fedele Azari.
Casa Depero. Sala "Eco della Stampa"
Casa Depero. "Echo of the Press" room
Fortunato Depero, "Depero Futurista. Dinamo Azari (Libro imbullonato)", 1927
Fortunato Depero, [Bolted Book], 1927, printing press, Mart
Room 3. Autoréclame [Self-advertising]
Even during his years in New York (1928-30) Depero produced several covers for widely circulated magazines such as "Vanity Fair" and "Vogue". In the sketches for the former, one can recognise several characters from the "Balli Plastici" fantastical menagerie, which from the stage spilled into many of Depero's other creations during the 1920s.
In the illustrations for 'Vogue', the modernist influence and the attempt to adapt to the American environment are stronger. In the blue-toned tempera sketches, the focus is almost always on the female figure, represented by elongated, sleek, art deco-style silhouettes.
The cover of "Sparks", Macy's magazine, is an original balance between the fantastical imagery typical of Depero's art and this new American style. Depero cuts out slender silhouettes that give a dynamic rhythm to the space, favouring diagonal lines and illuminating them with geometric light prisms. The result is both elegant and amusing.
In the autumn of 1928, Depero opened a branch of the Casa d'Arte in New York in an attempt to introduce his products to the American market. Unfortunately, the venture failed after only a few months, as he came up against a market that was more conservative than the European one and dominated by industrial production.
For the signs and posters advertising Depero's Futuristic House, the artist created graphics that reflected his impression of the new environment — dizzying skyscrapers and bright signs that highlight the bustle of a city constantly on the move.
In these works, typefaces and lettering remained central and increasingly replaced figures (such as 1930’s humorous "Palestra tipografica" [Typographical Gym], with its anthropomorphic letters).
Fortunato Depero, "Bozzetto di locandina Depero’s Futuristic-House", 1928-29
Fortunato Depero, [Sketch of advertising poster for Depero’s Futuristic House], 1928-29, India ink on paper, Mart, Fondo Depero
Room 4. “Rovereto” Room
The room was designed by Depero as a token of his gratitude to the Municipality of Rovereto, which had made the space available for him to show his works. The room is embellished by a number of decorative panels painted in oil or tempera in the typical style of the artist in the 1950s: stylised forms inspired by machine aesthetics and cool, often monochrome tones.
In the central panel of the triptych, the artist depicts Rovereto by juxtaposing historical and modern buildings; it's an interplay, rather than a contrast, of old and new. The city's landmarks, such as the castle and a number of churches, are recognisable; in Depero's futurist vision they become part of the vertical thrust of the new skyscrapers, in a building frenzy symbolised by scaffolding and cranes in the post-war reconstruction era.
The two side panels explicitly allude to war, with the monument to the fallen (the famous Bell) and the "heroic flames" of those who fought in the two world wars.
The panels on Italian costumes are the result of a long collaboration with ENIT (Ente Nazionale Italiano Turismo), for which the artist created numerous installations and decorative works designed to advertise Italian regions abroad. These works are characterised by less synthesis, plenty of folkloric detail, and the absence of dynamism.
The room is completed by the commemorative busts of Depero and his wife Rosetta, made by the Rovereto sculptor Eraldo Fozzer, and by a series of advertising panels that Depero called "ARALDICA INDUSTRIALE" [Industrial heraldry], as they resemble city or family coats of arms. These are the result of an original sponsoring strategy devised by Depero to partly finance the creation of his museum. The artist offered to sell advertising space to local companies for 100,000 lire per square metre. This explains the presence of the original coats of arms representing the Cassa di Risparmio di Trento e Rovereto, the Società Agricoltori della Vallagarina or the Komarek roller blinds factory.
Casa Depero. Sala “Rovereto”
Casa Depero. "Rovereto” Room
A selection of furniture produced by Casa d'Arte over the course of twenty years highlights the difference between the traditional use of wood, decorated with the inlay technique in different colours, and buxus, a new Italian-made material patented by paper mills Cartiere Giacomo Bosso, which Depero enthusiastically adopted in the 1930s.
Buxus was an economical alternative to inlays made of precious woods, as it was obtained from aniline-dyed pulp cellulose. The mixture is then pressed and dried into thin sheets, which can be easily cut out and glued to cover unfinished wooden furniture. The technique is reminiscent of collage, and of the patchwork tapestries that the artists loved so.
Casa Depero. I mobili
Casa Depero. Furniture
Depero began to think about the possibility of "painting with coloured cloth" during his stay in Capri in the summer of 1917.
The first "experimental tapestries" were made by Depero and Rosetta in Capri, while those on display at Casa Depero are the work of skilled seamstresses later recruited in Rovereto. The design and choice of colours are by Depero; however, the actual tapestries were made by Rosetta and the workers at the Casa d'Arte, a process that involves cutting individual pieces of woollen cloth according to the pattern, basting them on a cotton canvas stretched on a loom, and stitching them together with tiny stitches of matching coloured thread so that they are practically invisible.
"Il corteo della Gran Bambola" [The Parade of the Great Doll] (1920) is one of the first large 'fabric painting' to be made in this way for Umberto Notari, a Milan-based enthusiast of Depero's work, who commissioned two for the smoking room of his villa in Monza. In this work, but also in one from a few years later ("Festa della sedia” [Chair’s party], 1927), some of the characters from Depero's magic theatre can be recognised.
The shapes and colours of the patchwork tapestries are reminiscent both of Asian folklore undertones – which the artist picked up during his years with the Ballets Russes – and Mediterranean elements. Examples of this are the Sicilian cart in “Festa della sedia" or the figure in the foreground of "Serrada" (1920).
In common with the paintings of the Capri period, these 'tapestries’ feature a multiple perspective and diagonal views with shifting planes for the background and landscape.
"Diavoletti neri e bianchi. Danza di diavoli” [Black and white little devils. Dance of devils] (1922) is one of the few surviving pieces of furniture from an interior decoration installation. Depero curated it for a nightclub called "Il Cabaret del Diavolo" [The Devil's Cabaret], which opened in 1922 in the basement of the Hôtel Elite et des Etrangers in Rome. Depero designed all the furniture for the three rooms of the club, inspired by paradise, purgatory and hell, in a playful and fantastical style, as evidenced by this 'fabric painting'.
Casa Depero. Gli Arazzi
Casa Depero. The Tapestries
Fortunato Depero, "Festa della sedia", 1927
Fortunato Depero, [The chair's party], 1927, patchwork tapestry, Mart, Fondo Depero
Fortunato Depero, "Serrada", 1920
Fortunato Depero, "Serrada", 1920, patchwork tapestry, Mart, Provincia autonoma di Trento – Soprintendenza per beni culturali
Fortunato Depero, "Il corteo della gran bambola", 1920
Fortunato Depero, [The Parade of the Great Doll], 1920, patchwork tapestry, Mart, Fondo Depero
Things to know
- The layout of the rooms in Casa Depero may be subject to variations depending on Mart's exhibition calendar.
- The room on floor 2 is intended for small, dedicated exhibitions to Depero's work and his colleagues.