At Rome’s National Museum of 21st Century Art (MAXXI), an exhibition devoted to Italian futurist Giacomo Balla offers the rare chance to step inside the early 20th-century painter’s creative universe—more specifically, his former home. As part of the MAXXI exhibit, which celebrates the 15oth anniversary of Balla’s birth, visitors can reserve a tour of the wildly colorful Roman apartment, which is dubbed Casa Balla.
Just a 22-minute walk from the museum, on the fourth floor of a Via Oslavia building in Rome’s Della Vittoria district, a door with a metal plaque announcing Futur Balla opens to a whimsical world of bold pattern, color, and light. Casa Balla’s entrance hall vividly conveys the idea that this is a different kind of family home—one dedicated not just to art, but to vibrant spaces that break down the boundaries between art and daily life.
In a 1915 manifesto titled "Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe" that Balla coauthored with Italian painter Fortunato Depero, the prominent Italian futurist introduces the concept of living life itself as "a total work of art"—something that Balla achieved in his family’s home.
Balla moved into the apartment in 1929 with his wife, Elisa, and their two young daughters, Elica and Luce, both of whom were also painters. But instead of merely living and working within the walls of the typical, upper-middle class flat, the family used it as a dynamic, inhabitable canvas for art—painting the walls, designing and building furniture, and creating their own imaginative floor tiles, carpets, upholstery, light fixtures, and dishes.
Walking through the apartment, Balla’s intention to infuse daily life with art is abundantly clear. In the hallways, patterned murals wrap up the walls and across the ceilings, while hanging light fixtures are adorned with fanciful clouds cut from plexiglass. Carpets designed and hooked at Casa Balla add symmetrical arabesques and swirls of rich color to Luce and Elica’s rooms—the former of which is anchored by a graceful, branch-like chandelier. Nothing seems to have been ignored as a potential delivery system for the futurist’s ideal: the boldly patterned crockery, the clashing colors of the upholstered furniture—even the cabinet pulls and coat hooks have been altered and made beautiful.
To coincide with Casa Balla’s opening to the public, the MAXXI is hosting a major exhibition, dubbed Casa Balla: From the House to the Universe and Back. Curators Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and Domitilla Dardi commissioned eight contemporary works from artists inspired by Giacomo Balla and his Casa Balla, which create a visual dialogue alongside additional drawings, sketches, and objects by the Italian futurist.
Casa Balla: From the House to the Universe and Back is open until November 21, 2021. Booking is required for visits to Casa Balla.
To learn more about the MAXXI exhibit or inquire about booking a Casa Balla tour, please visit maxxi.art.
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