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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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Introduction: Bruno Munari’s Lightness (Pierpaolo Antonello / Matilde Nardelli / Margherita Zanoletti)

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PIERPAOLO ANTONELLO, MATILDE NARDELLI AND MARGHERITA ZANOLETTI

Introduction: Bruno Munari’s Lightness

I had great success in the midst of general indifference

— BRUNO MUNARI

In the introduction to the exhibition catalogue of Arte Italiana. Presenze 1900–1945 held at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 1989, Pontus Hultén outlined the fundamental genetic contribution of modern Italian art to the development of visual idioms and experimentation at international level in the twentieth century, sketching a genealogical trajectory that hinged on key movements such as Futurism, Pittura Metafisica, and Arte Povera.1 There is also a name that stands out in this historical cluster, and it is that of Bruno Munari, whose prolific, prolonged and metamorphic career ran through almost all of the last century, unquestionably contributing to the language of visual modernism as well as invigorating the experimental thrust of the many avant-garde movements that alternated through the decades. The place of Munari in this long and intricate genealogy is far from being clear though, and, as Ara Merjian puts it in the first chapter of this volume, his oeuvre remains an ‘unresolved case’ (p. 27).

It is difficult to provide a general assessment of an artistic career that spanned seven decades – from the time he joined the Futurists in Milan in 1927 to his death in 1998 – and of an artist who insistently resisted any form of labelling or definitional pigeonholing.2 Munari in fact became a dominant...

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