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Bruno Munari

The Lightness of Art


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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7: ‘The Great Painter Paints the Baker’s Sign’: Bruno Munari and the Art of Advertising (Nicola Lucchi)


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7    ‘The Great Painter Paints the Baker’s Sign’: Bruno Munari and the Art of Advertising

Bruno Munari’s name evokes the memory of various personas. Art historians remember him as a second-generation Futurist, an abstract painter, or a forefather of Arte Programmata. With a dose of irony, Munari once remarked that ‘lots of people know me as “You know, the man who made the useless machines”’.1 Others tend to reminisce about the author of highly original juvenile books and a toymaker, or will recall a photographer, an industrial designer, an inventor. Few, however, remember Munari as an advertising artist, despite the fact that his output as an Italian ‘mad man’ constitutes – both qualitatively and quantitatively – a prodigious achievement in his seventy-year-long career.

Munari began to work within the advertising world shortly after his 1926 arrival in Milan, roughly at the same time as his artistic debut. Well aware of the art market’s volatile character, and aspiring to secure for himself a reliable source of income, he provided his services to various advertising agencies that operated in the city, including Carlo Cossio’s animation studio.2 In 1930–31, after a series of sporadic collaborations, Munari and Riccardo (Ricas) Castagnedi inaugurated their own advertising agency, Studio R+M.3 Through this and other boutique advertising firms, such as Milan’s famous Studio Boggeri, Munari placed his creativity at the service of the marketing needs of countless companies, from the textile to the pharmaceutical field,...

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