What a good idea the Umberto Boccioni retrospective was. Most of us know very little about this founding member of the vociferous Italian avant-garde movement known as Futurism. A few key images, legacies of art-history courses and visits to the Museum of Modern Art, serve to define him: the plunging red horse of his 1910 painting The City Rises, and the amazing bronze whirligig of his 1913 sculpture Development of a Bottle in Space. And then there is that famous statement about a galloping horse having not four legs but twenty and its movements' being triangular. The prospect of seeing Boccioni’s beginnings and evolution, of having a context for the exploding bronze bottle and the horses, both painted and galloping, was promising.

Unfortunately, while the Metropolitan Museum’s Boccioni retrospective was a model of careful research and conscientious presentation,...


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