The Estorick Collection in Islington, North London, is an artoholics’ tequila shot. If you wander down unlovely Canonbury Road, past the discount furniture shop, and enter the Estorick Collections’ Georgian home through its walled-off garden cafe, littered with North London eccentrics quaffing tea and cake, you’ll see why. The collection, spread across three floors, is made up of a permanent collection of mainly Italian Futurist art, gathered together by the late, great American, Eric Estorick, and a changing exhibit of painting, photography and sculpture.
I caught Giuseppe Cavilli: Master of Light there a couple of weeks ago, but the current exhibition, In Astratto, apparently explores fifty years of innovation in Italian abstraction. I’m looking forward to it, as the excellently curated Cavilli was an eye-opener, showcasing photographs from a time (circa 1950) when photography was struggling to be taken seriously as any kind of form at all, and Cavilli and his crew insistently produced images that created line out of tonal value and texture, in a way the world imagined only painters could.
Cavilli, Untitled, n.d
When I go, I’ll definitely grab the chance to see the Futurists again. I hadn’t heard of Futurism, which started in 1909 as a literary movement, before I stumbled upon Estorick, but it is allegedly Italy’s greatest contribution to 20th century art. Its basic tenants are movement and machinery as expressions of modern life; in our digitalized age, rooted to the spot in front of our myriad screens, this concept may sound dated, but therein lies its charm. Many of the futurists take as their subject the simplest things and mechanize them, make them fast, furious and full of life; in comparison, Twitter just doesn’t quite cut it.
Giacomo Balla, The Hand of the Violinist
Luigo Russolo, Music, 1911
Sometimes delicately powerful, sometimes subtle as a sledgehammer (see images above; The Hand of the Violinist dances across the canvas, while Music, an ‘acknowledged Futurist masterpiece,’ looks like the Phantom of the Opera on acid), the Futurists assembled here are guaranteed to make you reassess the act of looking. What more could any collection ask for?
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