Marinetti and the Futurist blitz at the Majestic | Grand Hotel Majestic "Già Baglioni" - Luxury 5 stars Hotel
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Marinetti and the Futurist blitz at the Majestic

Marinetti and the Futurist blitz at the Majestic

History

Fri, 04/16/2021 - 10:00

Our Cafè Marinetti

If we were to imagine the Italian Futurist movement as a train – after all, as an heir to Symbolism it was madly in love with speed and modernity – the Grand Hotel Majestic “già Baglioni” in Bologna would be a station to stop at. Today we climb aboard that train, which one night in 1914 travelled through the hotel basement, driven by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the poet who founded Futurism. 

Bologna, a cradle of Futurism

Today we call it the Belle Epoque. But they were frenzied years, brusquely interrupted by the Great War, especially in Bologna, a city of great ferment and initiative. Like the movement itself, Futurism’s explosive programmatic Manifesto, written by Tommaso Filippo Marinetti himself, caused a sensation when it appeared in Le Figaro on February 20 1909. But not everybody knows that it was published first in Bologna, on February 5 in the city’s Gazzetta dell’Emilia (the offices moved to Modena in 1911), then hot on its heels in other Italian newspapers. A flurry of iconoclastic, bellicose energy blew through the city, bucking the trend of the local cultural associations. The group that gathered around Marinetti were all the rage, having their say everywhere, sparking controversies and creating confusion. Newspaper reports from the time speak of scuffles in which rotten vegetables and eggs were thrown and brawls sparked by the Futurists’ impromptu forays. This happened, for example, outside the Caffè San Pietro in Via Indipendenza, a stone’s throw from the Majestic – then known as the Baglioni – and at the Teatro del Corso, the theatre in Via Santo Stefano, two places that have survived to this day. The moment everyone had been waiting for came in 1914, when all the energy was channelled into an exhibition, the first public showcase for artists from Bologna and the surrounding Emilia region who were close to the movement. Given that Futurism had declared war on tradition and the establishment, there was no way that the show was going to be conventional. It had to reflect the ideals set out by maître à penser Marinetti. Organised at a non-institutional venue unconnected with the Accademia, it turned out to be a blitz.  

A “white night” ahead of its time 

So where was the Futurist exhibition held? Why, in Marinetti’s home from home in Bologna, of course: at the Grand Hotel Baglioni, as it was known at the time, which had been opened on February 15 1912. Every time he was in town – which was pretty often, judging from the hotel’s registers – the famous cultural agitator would stay here, the most luxurious, prestigious hotel available. He wasn’t the only one: Francesco Balilla Pratella, Umberto Boccioni, Luigi Russolo and Giacomo Balla were also regular guests.
 
Returning to the historic white night” between March 20 and 21 1914, on that occasion more than 500 paying visitors packed into the hotel basement. They came to admire 50 or so works by five artists, fellow students at the Accademia di Belle Arti, the oldest of whom was 25. They were the already celebrated Giorgio Morandi, Severo Pozzati – who under the pseudonym of Sepo was to become one of the most famous poster designers of the first half of the twentieth century – Osvaldo Licini and Mario Bacchelli, among the most important painters of their generation, and Giacomo Vespignani, nicknamed “Babaza” and “L'antipratico”, a leading painter and potter. On the night of the inauguration, Carlo Carrà, Umberto Boccioni and Luigi Russolo were also called in by the Futurist musical theorist Francesco Balilla Pratella to lend their support.
 
Not everyone grasped the spirit of the initiative, but the exhibition caused quite a stir, nonetheless. The local daily newspaper Il Resto del Carlino got its artistic schools mixed up and were later to speak of the “secessionists of the Baglioni”. There was no catalogue for the exhibition and many of the works have been lost. But the happening entered the history of art and allowed the artists on show to make a name for themselves. In modern parlance it was what we would call a successful marketing operation.

The Futurista's menu

Event invitation

The Café Marinetti, a plunge into history

To commemorate the event, the hotel’s lounge café has been officially renamed “Cafè Marinetti” and it’s the perfect place for a brunch or an aperitif inspired by the twentieth-century avant-gardes.
 
The café was inaugurated on the night of March 20 2014, exactly a hundred years from the exhibition itself, and was attended by scholars, literati, historians and art critics such as Professor Beatrice Buscaroli, author of Futurismo a Bologna, the first volume in the “I libri della buonanotte” library edited by the Duetorrihotels group and published by Minerva Edizioni. The night was a journey back in time and included an authentically Futurist dinner in the frescoed dining room of the “I Carracci” restaurant. The menu featured eccentric recipes concocted by Futurist artists keen to totally revamp culture, gastronomy included: hence Rising Thunder risotto, Carneplastico meat loaf, Strawberry Titties dessert, manna coffee, and Inventina, a polibibita, the Futurist word for a cocktail.
 
It may be an oxymoron, but the event really was pure retro avant-garde and the irreverent, nonconformist spirit of Marinetti lingered in the air. Also present that night was the artist’s granddaughter, Francesca Barbi Marinetti. Unveiling the plaque entitled to her illustrious realtive, she said, “Today my grandfather, an untiring train traveller, has a home again. For him, the Baglioni and Bologna were the same thing”.

 

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