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War is “the only hygiene of the world,” F. T. Marinetti wrote in his 1909 Futurist Manifesto. The Italian Futurists gloried in war and couldn’t wait for it to begin. In the years just prior to World War I they used avant-garde literature, art, photography, and performance theater to goad the public toward conflict and its disruptive creativity. Now the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan has brought together more than 300 of their works in Italian Futurism, 1901–1944: Reconstructing the Universe, the first major exhibit on the movement ever mounted in the United States. Futurism was a way of life for its adherents, and the exhibit reflects that, ranging from film to fashion, from ceramics to advertising, poetry, and music—all of it celebrating industry, speed, and the kind of vitalism that, in the early 20th century mind, heralded the future.

On display through September 1, 2014.


Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Military History Quarterly. To subscribe, click here.