the collection

archive | materials | themes

The Massimo and Sonia Cirulli Archive is active between Bologna and New York. With over 200,000 works, it is the largest private archive of twentieth century Italian art.


Founded in 1984 by Massimo P. Cirulli in New York, the Archive narrates the art and history of Italy in the last century through an interdisciplinary perspective. Its collection spans from 1900 to 1970: from the birth of Modernity, to the economic boom and the affirmation of the Made in Italy.


The Massimo and Sonia Cirulli Archive is built upon three decades of research, which continues to this day. Its collection began with the acquisition of vintage billboards, authored by some of the most representative artists of the twentieth century. The collection expanded with the acquisition of paintings, sculptures, photographs and collages, artistic and technical drawings; together, these materials offer a complex visual history of twentieth-century Italy, following the evolution of its artistic movements (from Symbolism to Expressionism, from Futurism to Metaphysics and Rationalism).

Among the artworks preserved by the Archive, there are paintings by Giacomo Balla, Osvaldo Licini, Mario Sironi, drawings by Ram and Thayaht, posters by Leopoldo Metlicovitz, Marcello Dudovich, Plinio Nomellini, Leonetto Cappiello, Fortunato Depero, Gino Boccasile, Carlo Sironi, Lucio Fontana; photomontages by Vinicio Paladini and Bruno Munari, sculptures by Renato Bertelli and Giovanni Romagnoli, architectural drawings by Sant’Elia, Virgilio Marchi and Gio Ponti; the EUR 42 archive, with architectural drawings by Marcello Piacentini, Mario Chiattone and Luigi Moretti; futurist books and corporate archives of companies such as Motta, Alemagna, Cisitalia, Ricordi and Pirelli.


The mission of the Massimo and Sonia Cirulli Archive is to document and promote the knowledge of Italian art and style, in Italy and abroad, through the design and organization of exhibitions, held in collaboration with museums as well as public and private institutions. The Archive also promotes the publication of art books devoted to artists and movements that greatly influenced the art of the twentieth century and played an important role in the codification of taste.

Finally, the Archive offers services such as the loan and reproduction of works from its collection, and the organization of travelling exhibitions, with the aim of fostering an international understanding of Italian art.


archive | materials | themes

The heterogeneity of the materials preserved by the Massimo and Sonia Cirulli Archive reveals the vision of the Archive’s founders: the dialogue between higher and lower arts recreates the complexity of the twentieth-century spirit.

Painting and Sculpture The Archive preserves paintings and sculptures by artists from the late nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century. Their languages range from Modernism to Futurism (Plinio Nomellini, Aroldo Bonzagni, Giacomo Balla, Osvaldo Licini), from Expressionism to Metaphysics (Aroldo Bonzagni, Ram, Gigiotti Zanini), from Novecento to Ritorno all’ordine (Mario Sironi, Achille Funi). Together, these artists contribute to multiple thematic areas of the Archive. Among the sculptures, the collection includes works by Renato Bertelli, Ercole Drei, Giorgio Morigi, Giovanni Romagnoli, Ram and Thayaht.


Advertising and Graphic Design Sketches, packaging, magazines, and books trace the history of Italian advertising and graphic design, from the early twentieth century to the 1960s. The extensive poster collection includes works by leading Italian illustrators and graphic artists (Marcello Dudovich, Fortunato Depero, Gino Boccasile, Leonetto Cappiello, Bruno Munari, Erberto Carboni), often at work for major Italian companies (Alemagna, Motta , Barilla, Campari, Cisitalia, Fiat, Pirelli). The collection includes billboards printed on stone, following the old lithographic method, as well as posters made with the innovative technologies of offset printing, which contaminate different languages (photographic montage and typography). An important collection of posters comes from the Archivio Arti Grafiche Ricordi.


Photography Several collections of photographs, both artistic and documentary, illustrate Italy from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1970s. One can observe the evolution of landscape (Vittorio Sella, Gianni Berengo Gardin) and society (Arturo Ghergo, Filippo Masoero), the history of business and labor (Bruno Munari) and the protagonists of Italian cinema and the changes in the Italian lifestyle (Ugo Mulas, Pino Settanni).


Collage and Photo Collage The Archive’s collages and photo collages illustrate from the 1920s to the 1970s the late-futurist experimentations through the work of Thayaht and Bruno Munari, as well as graphic design projects produced by Ram, Riccardo Ricas and Studio Boggeri for magazines and advertising firms.


Drawings Drawings, sketches, and projects, from the 1930s to the 1970s, illustrating the work of artists, architects, and designers of the period. Of particular interest is the collection of EUR 42 drawings, the Virgilio Marchi archive, the drawings made during the X and XI Milan Triennal (Piero Consagra, Lucio Fontana, Bruno Munari) and by Lorenzo Castellaro and Pinin Farina for Cisitalia and Olivetti.


Ephemera Letters, written testimonials, brochures, advertising material, diplomas and postcards documenting the political climate, the social and cultural development of Italy from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1960s. Of particular significance is the collection of Futurist manifestos, the correspondence from the Arctic expedition “Stella Polare” led by the Duke of Abruzzi in the early 1900s, the correspondence from the flight across the Atlantic made by Italo Balbo in 1932, and letters signed by Gabriele D’Annunzio.


Books, Magazines, and Journals The Archive’s collection of books, magazines and journals covers the first seventy years of the twentieth century, documenting the evolution of social and artistic trends through the printed page: the collection includes futurist experimental books and propaganda magazines (La rivista illustrata del Popolo d’Italia 1925-1940, Ali d’Italia); artist books (Bruno Munari, Mario Sironi), trade publications (L’ufficio moderno 1934-1938) and current affairs magazines (Tempo 1950-1970, Epoca 1950-1970).


archive | materials | themes

The Massimo and Sonia Cirulli Archive organizes its collection through ten thematic areas. These iconographic paths illustrate the visual culture of the twentieth century through a transversal approach that complements the heterogeneity of the artworks preserved.

Food The history of food and taste, told through the evolution of Italian food habits from the beginning of the 1900s until the seventies. This iconographic path allows an understanding of the different perceptions and communication about food products through different eras, from the Belle Epoque to the economic boom. This thematic area includes sophisticated posters by Marcello Dudovich, Giorgio Muggiani, and Leonetto Cappiello, created for Branca and Martini; avant-garde experimentations by Federico Seneca for Buitoni and Perugina. It also illustrates the emphasis placed on food independence typical of fascist propaganda during the autarchic period (Adolfo De Carolis, Leopoldo Metlicovitz, Erberto Carboni, Gino Boccasile), and the study of advertising campaigns designed for mass communication (Alemagna, Motta, Barilla) by major advertising firms, among which Studio Boggeri in Milan and Armando Testa in Turin.


Architecture Spanning from the Futurism to Metaphysical art, from Rationalism to Spatialism, this thematic area narrates the birth of modern architecture in Italy, and the transformation of cities under the pressure of the second industrial revolution. It also narrates the utopian construction of EUR during fascism, with an archival fund that preserves approximately one hundred drawings of architects who collaborated to the exposition design (Marcello Piacentini, Giovanni Guerrini, Mario Chiattone). The collection also includes more than three hundred works from the archive of architect, designer, and futurist theorist Virgilio Marchi, as well as works by Antonio Sant’Elia, Osvaldo Licini, Bruno Munari, Ram and Thayaht, and Mario Sironi.


Industry The history of large Italian companies from the early twentieth century to the 1960s, told through images of significant corporate funds. This thematic area proposes a visual history of companies that still exist (Alemagna, Campari, Motta, Olivetti, Pirelli, Rai) as well as a testimony of business realities that have disappeared, but that remain fundamental to an historical understanding of the Italian economy (from the Grandi Magazzini Mele in Naples, to Cisitalia and Ricordi).


Fashion and Design The birth and evolution of Italian fashion and design, explored in its transition from the traditional craftsmanship of the early twentieth century, to futurist experimentation, to the industrial production that creates quality products on a large scale. This thematic area includes posters by Marcello Dudovich for the Rinascente Department Store to the Signorina grandi firme by Gino Boccasile; drawings by Franco Grignani and Erberto Carboni; projects for fabrics from the 1950s, signed by artists and designers such as Lucio Fontana, Piero Dorazio, Enzo Mari, Fausto Melotti. Of particular interest is the collection of hundreds of fabric designs made during the X and XI Milan Triennale (1954 and 1956).


Customs and Society The history of Italian customs and society from the dawn of the twentieth century to the 1970s, told through images in fundamental journals and magazines, such as “Ars et Labor”, “La Lettura”, “Natura”; Futurist manifestos published in historical newspapers, pictorial sketches by Ram, Thayaht’s d’apres, and high-society photographs by Pino Settanni and Ugo Mulas.


Propaganda The birth of propaganda between the two world wars offers a path where Futurism and fascist rhetoric express themselves through themes such as flight, the glorification of the war, the cult of the Duce and the defense of Italy during the years of autarchy.The materials in this thematic area range from posters by Domenico Chiaudrero, Luigi Martinati, and Xanti Schawinsky to drawings and paintings by Ram and Thayaht, from Renato Bertelli’s Profilo continuo to the magazine “L’Ala d’Italia”.


Speed The cult of speed, the passion for the machine and technology, from Futurism to the economic boom. Materials include Futurist compositions by Giacomo Balla and Umberto Boccioni, as well as advertising for vehicles and accessories by Fortunato Depero, Enrico Prampolini, and Sepo; Giorgio de Chirico and Mario Sironi’s posters for Fiat, as well as technical drawings by Pinin Farina for Cisitalia, sketches by Bob Noorda and Pino Tovaglia for Pirelli.


The Flight The Archive narrates the passion for flying and the birth of Italian aviation during the thirty years of its evolution, from 1908 to 1938, from the first Futurist manifestos to the birth of Ala Littoria, Italy’s first state-owned airline company. This thematic area proposes images ranging from aviation photographs by Gabriele D’Annunzio, to the transatlantic cruises led by Italo Balbo; handwritten documents and aerial photographs by Filippo Masoero, photomontages by Bruno Munari, as well as posters by Aldo Mazza, Umberto di Lazzaro, and Marcello Dudovich.


Tourism, Sport, and Leisure The birth of leisure time from the beginning of the century until the 1960s, seen through images that narrate the vacations and entertainments of the landed gentry of the early twentieth century as well as those of mass tourism. This thematic area includes advertisings for horse racing (Aleardo Villa, Marcello Dudovich) and luxury cruises (Bruno Munari, Lucio Fontana), motor racing, and aviation (Aldo Mazza, Fortunato Depero); but also promotional materials from seaside resorts entrusted to artists (Bruno Munari, Ram, Thayaht).


TV, Cinema, Theatre, and Music The history of the Italian theatre and film from the early twentieth century to the 1960s, narrated through silent film billboards by Leopoldo Metlicovitz, posters for the Greek Theatre in Syracuse by Duilio Cambelotti, set designs by Virgilio Marchi, movie posters from Neorealism and commedia all’italiana. This thematic area also offers posters for the main musical events in Italy during the 1930s- from the Maggio Fiorentino to the Luglio musicale Bolognese – advertising materials for the public TV broadcaster RAI and stage photographs of many Italian actors and directors.