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Bruno Munari

The Lightness of Art


Edited By Pierpaolo Antonello, Matilde Nardelli and Margherita Zanoletti

Bruno Munari was one of the most important and eclectic twentieth-century European artists. Dubbed the «Leonardo and Peter Pan» of contemporary art, he pioneered what would later be labelled kinetic art, playing a key role in the constitution and definition of the aesthetic programmes of groups such as Movimento Arte Concreta and Programmed Art. He became an internationally recognized name in the field of industrial design, winning the prestigious «Compasso d’Oro» prize four times, while also being a prominent figure in Italian graphic design, working for magazines such as Tempo and Domus, as well as renowned publishing companies such as Einaudi and Bompiani. He left an indelible mark as an art pedagogue and popularizer with his famous 1970s artistic laboratories for children and was the author of numerous books, ranging from essays on art and design to experimental books.

Capturing a resurgent interest in Munari at the international level, the exceptional array of critical voices in this volume constitutes an academic study of Munari of a depth and range that is unprecedented in any language, offering a unique analysis of Munari’s seven-decade-long career. Through original archival research, and illuminating and generative comparisons with other artists and movements both within and outside Italy, the essays gathered here offer novel readings of more familiar aspects of Munari’s career while also addressing those aspects that have received scant or no attention to date.

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3: Bruno Munari versus Programmed Art: A Contradictory Situation, 1961–1967 (Giovanni Rubino)


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3    Bruno Munari versus Programmed Art: A Contradictory Situation, 1961–1967

In May 1962, the Olivetti showroom in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan hosted the exhibition Arte programmata. Arte cinetica. Opere moltiplicate. Opera aperta [Programmed Art. Kinetic Art. Multiplied Works. Open Works], organized by Bruno Munari and Giorgio Soavi. The designation ‘Programmed Art’ was a fitting linguistic invention by Munari, aiming to define those works of art in which movement was a constitutive and ‘programmed’ element. On show, in addition to pieces by Munari himself, were works by Enzo Mari, the Italian Gruppo T and Gruppo N, and the French GRAV (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel). The exhibition was sponsored by Olivetti, the famous typewriter manufacturer, who had been at the forefront of innovative industrial, graphic, and architectural design for several decades. By the late 1950s the company had started to promote its products both in Italy and internationally – including in Düsseldorf, London and New York – by inviting visual artists to set up temporary exhibitions in its own stores. Olivetti’s art programme offered obvious opportunities for collaboration with Munari, whose reputation in the fields of industrial and graphic design, as well as an artist, was by then well-established. The partnership between Munari and Olivetti led to the introduction of innovative displays, which placed emphasis not only on the company’s typewriters, but also on its more recent forays into computing technology.1

Munari’s collaboration with Olivetti over Programmed...

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