A century of art manifestos: Part One

Appreciating the power that language has to expertly convey the meaning of an idea and give it a poetic air, the Futurists, in want of a way of capturing the spirit of their new movement, invented a new form of artistic expression: the art manifesto.
It was 1909 and the world of art was changing fast. Two years previous Pablo Picasso had painted his devastatingly masterful Les Demoiselles D’Avignon. Everyone was thinking of Paul Cezanne. In three years time, Marcel Duchamp would paint Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2.
It soon caught on. Art movements were not exclusive to artists in a fine art sense, but comprised of actors, playwrights and musicians. Many, like F.T. Marinetti, the founder of Futurism, had an eloquent way with words, capturing, as Karl Marx saw it, the ‘poetry of revolution’.
Seek them out. Lose yourself in the magnificence of these iconic works and appreciate the way in which they persuasively, imaginatively and dramatically set out their vision for a more meaningful way of living. For now, we offer you a succinct overview of some of most profound art manifestos of the twentieth century.
Futurist Manifesto (1909)
Founder: F.T. Marinetti
Philosophy: The religious past is finished. There is no going back. Forget and move forward for there is only one truth and that is the future. This is a wonderful world defined by technology, the metropolis, mass media, speed and industry.
Key quote: “It is from Italy that we launch through the world this violently upsetting incendiary manifesto of ours. With it, today, we establish Futurism, because we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians.”
Vorticist Manifesto (1914)
Founder: Wyndham Lewis
Philosophy: Carpe Diem! There is no need to travel back, those days have gone. There is no need looking ahead, those days have yet to be realised. Enjoy then, today, the modern world and revel in the industriousness of man.
Key quote: “The only way humanity can help artists is to remain independent and work unconsciously. We need the unconscious of humanity – their stupidity, animalism and dreams. We believe in no perfectibility except our own. Intrinsic beauty is in the interpreter and seer, not in the object or content.”
Dada Manifesto (1916)
Founder: Hugo Ball
Philosophy: Anti-art as art, the world and everything in it is absurd and so it is that we revolt against everything. Ours is a species capable of sounding a universal call to arms – against such a backdrop of bloodshed, let us abandon hopeless rationalism.
Key quote: “How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right? By saying dada.”
De Stijl (1918)
Founder: Theo Van Doesburg
Philosophy: Everything in the world is connected: that which was before, that which exists today and that which will unfold with time. There is abundance, in everyday life, distracting us from meaning. Reduce yourself to pure abstract and breathe again.
Key quote: “There is an old and a new consciousness of time. The old is connected with the individual. The new is connected with the universal. The struggle of the individual against the universal is revealing itself in the world-war as well as in the art of the present day.”
Cadogan Tate specialises in art transportation, fine art logistics, helping galleries, museums and collectors manage their collections.