Associated with the second wave of Italian Futurism, Bruno Munari was an artist and designer known for his painting, drawing, sculpture, graphic design, literature and poetry.Read More
Born in Milan in 1907, Munari grew up in Badia Polesine, a municipality southwest of Venice. At the age of 18, he returned to Milan where he worked with his uncle, an engineer.
Coming of age during Italian Futurism's second wave in the late 1920s and inspired by the movement's founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Munari contributed collage works to propaganda-heavy magazines and exhibited artworks for the first time in 1927.
Munari took interest in graphic design in 1933, collaborating with Riccardo Castagnedi, with whom he worked until 1938. From 1938 to 1943, Munari worked as an art director for the publishing company Mondadori, designing graphics for Italian publications like Grazia and Tempo Magazine.
At the same time, Munari was making sculptures and children's books—the latter originally intended for his son Alberto. Munari's books incorporated texture and tactile surfaces to educate children on touch, movement and colour.
Following World War II, Munari broke ties with Futurism, deeming the movement fascist. In 1948, he founded Movimento Arte Concerto (MAC) along with Gillo Dorfles, Gianni Monnet and Atanasio Soldati. Borrowing from Concrete Art and centered around geometric abstraction, MAC was a departure from Futurism and Constructivism and focused on the narrative and playful.
Throughout the following decade, Munari made many objects for the design sector including televisions, ashtrays, coffee machines and light fixtures. L'Ora X Clock (1945), for example—a mass-produced alarm clock with two rotating half-circles instead of hands—was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Made from paper, thin wooden sticks and silk strings, Munari's Useless Machines—a series of hanging quadrilateral units inspired from childhood memories of swings—resembled mobiles which adapted to their environments. Their kinetic composition broke away from traditional understandings of painting and static sculpture.
Beyond children's books, Munari also made toys like ABC con fantasia (1960), a box of soft plastic letters in which capitalised letters are made from a blend of lines and curves, meant to teach children composition through basic strokes.
In 1966, Munari published the illustrated manifesto Design as Art, which aimed to place design at the intersection of art and life. In the widely circulated text, Munari referred to an orange as a perfectly designed object, coherent in form, function and consumption. Another of Munari's texts, published in 1971, Codice ovvio (Obvious code), provides an anthology of Munari's practice, documenting various facets of his work as artist, graphic designer, writer and inventor.
Munari has been the recipient of many awards including the Cavaliere di Gran Croce (1994); Marconi award of the Brera Academy (1992); ADCI Milan Hall of Fame in Creativity and Communication (1990); Spiel Gut of Ulm (1971, 1973, 1987); Lego Award (1986); award from the Japan Design Foundation (1985); graphic award at the Bologna Fair (1984); Andersen award for best child author (1974); and The Compasso d'Oro from Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (1954, 1955, 1979).
Bruno Munari's work has been included in major international exhibitions including documenta and the Venice Biennale.
Notable solo exhibitions have been held at Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York (2019, 2018); Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London (2015); Museo dell'Ara Pacis, Rome (2008—9); Rotonda della Besana, Milan (2007); Museum of Modern Art, Klatovy Gallery, Czech Republic, (1997); Museo di Cantù, Italy (1995); Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich (1995); and Palazzo Reale, Milan (1986).
Bruno Munari's work has been included in group exhibitions at MoMA, New York (2019—21, 2012—13, 1955); Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London (2006, 2005); and documenta, Kassel (1964, 1968).
On Ocula, Munari is represented by Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.
Munari has been written about in numerous publications, including Frieze.
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021
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Coming of age during the second wave of Italian Futurism, the artist and designers’ mind-boggling experiments in genre and classification