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2009 not only celebrates the centenary of the Giro d’Italia, it also marks the 100th anniversary of Futurism – an artistic movement that embraced the bicycle as a symbol of dynamic modernity. The Tate Modern in London is currently holding an exhibition to celebrate the work of the Futurists.
1909 was the year that F.T. Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto was published. This declaration of a new cultural movement inspired by contemporary industry, communications and the machine proclaimed a burning desire to race into the future. Marinetti wrote; “we want no part of the past”, expressing the Futurist’s rejection of the staid, classical culture of the 19th century and rejoicing in modern life and its progression into the future. Fascinated with the “dynamics of existence” and revolting against the old static modes of existence, the Italian Futurists called for a new aesthetic language appropriate for modern times. The speed of technological progress and brevity of modern life informed the Futurust ‘art totale’ to embrace dynamism and movement in painting, sculpture, architecture, film, textiles and music.
“Dynamism of a Cyclist” - Umberto Boccioni (1913)
The dynamic interaction between man and modern materials is most apparent with the road cyclist. Whilst motorbikes and cars were also depicted by Futurist artists, the bicycle represented the most intimate marriage between modern technology and man. The futurist aesthetic of energy running through matter and man was perfectly captured by works such as Umberto Boccioni’s “Dynamism of a Cyclist”. The elements of speed, rhythm, noise and paths of movement known so well by the cyclist were expressed in the paintings of artists such as Giacomo Balla, Mario Sironi and Natalia Goncharova.
“The Cyclist” – Mario Sironi (1914)
It could be argued that the road cyclist is the ultimate manifestation of Futurism - rhythmical, fast and machine like (see Kraftwerk), moving through the modern landscape with self-propelled velocity. Futurists introduced an aesthetic which reflected the new sporting activities of the era and represented a step forward from the classical world. Futurist clothing was created based on principles such as comfort, hygiene, practicability and agility. The designs of the Futurists, whose research was based on speed in motion, can be seen in the work of contemporary sports designers (see Rapha). Balla and then Thayaht designed a one-piece garment the “Tuta”, a prototype to the well loved skinsuit. Shapes created by Boccioni, Thayaht and other Futurist sculptors can be seen as a precursor to the aerodynamic elements used in modern kit and bike design.
Stars of road racing, from Coppi to Merckx to Moser to Armstrong will have ridden bikes and worn kit that was indirectly influenced by the aesthetic of the Futurist movement. The highly graphical and dynamic style born out of the new speed and movement of modernity is ever present in the Peloton today.
Futurism at the Tate Modern runs until 20th September.
- @tribryan Hi Bryan, that’s a discontinued Irish Country Jersey which is no longer in production, sorry to disappoint.
- @vickiewoodsford @richardhier @daithetooth Thanks Vickie, glad we were able to help too.
- @ServiceCourse @richardhier @daithetooth You’re all too kind, thank you.
- @richardhier Thanks Richard, have a good weekend. Will pass on your thanks to Peter.
- Stylish, creative, sharp? We all know a sartorial city rider that can be tricky to buy for. See our guide for hints → http://t.co/dul9phwMoX
- Who's excited for snowy racing #inbend this weekend? We brought tshirts and coffee for the weekend.… http://t.co/aYYPjQEXTG
- @playa_mansa Sorry, somehow missed this. Our backpack is great for general use. Most of us here use it both on and off the bike.
- @TheRaceRadio A man experienced in sheep aerodynamics, perhaps. → http://t.co/4ysrDy5bie
- The most recent Rapha Gentlemen’s Race took place in Adelaide with 18 teams lining up for the rolling 160km route. → http://t.co/ZQ3Dzz0NEX
- @andersmagnus Hi Anders, there’s been a delay unfortunately, but thanks for being patient. It will be out as soon as possible.