For the Italian artist Tullio Crali, the art movement Futurism was not just about art, but about a new dynamic and exciting way of life. Unfortunately during the 2nd World War it became too interlinked with Mussolini and, with the death of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1944, the movement effectively came to an end, but Crali kept its spirit burning like a torch in his work, while he moved from Italy to Paris and then Cairo.
The fascinating exhibition of his work from the 1920′s to the 1980′s at the Estorick Collection draws on his work, sketchbooks and other archives still held by the family and therefore rarely seen, as we see the different phases and different styles, at times appearing to be by two different artists. An excellent tour was provided as part of London Art Fair which was my catalyst for going and I have to admit to now feeling guilty that I had not previously made the effort to make the journey from southwest London to Highgate to visit this Collection before. I shall be back! It is particularly fascinating to compare his angular Futurist work, with colourful planes and, after the 2nd World War, more subdued in cities such as Paris, with his more organic sculptural collages created with geological specimens and found materials. Quite a contrast, and with the latter having intriguing titles such as ‘Idolatory’, ‘Return from the Crusade’ and ‘Future Fossil of the Mechanical Civilisation’.
The Georgian house Northampton Lodge was built as one of a series of houses around 1810 by Henry Leroux of Stoke Newington but sadly he went bankrupt after Parliament agreed to the construction of a new road in Canonbury Square which increased traffic and reduced the desirability and value of his properties. Over the following years, the property changed hands several times, remaining a private home until 1916. In the post-war period it was turned into an artificial flower factory, which continued to trade on the site until 1968 and then became an architect’s office, first for Sir Basil Spence then for Sir Colin St John Wilson, after which it was occupied by an IT company. Why do modernist architects occupy Georgian buildings?
In the 1990′s, the house took on a new role as the home of the Estorick Collection of modern Italian art, which we are fortunate stayed in London rather than going to Italy or New York. It has recently has a major refurbishment and today shows a selection of work from its permanent collection, along with special exhibitions such as that of the work of Tullio Crali – an excellent and hidden cultural asset in north London which was opened up for a special tour as part of the London Art Fair.