In 1917, one of the largest empires in crumbled to dust. Centuries of Tsarist rule were overthrown, and a brand new Communist Russia was born. Art loves upheaval, as much as misery loves company. A collective of avant-garde artists, including Malevich, Kandinsky, Tatlin and Chagall, relished the free space within which they could work. No longer would they be bound to the wealthy elite and their commissions. They could speak in a new artistic language, making authentic, Modern art, 'for the people'.
Malevich dove into geometric abstraction: "trying desperately to free art from the dead weight of the real world, I took refuge in the form of the square." Chagall developed his own fantastical version of Cubism. Kandinsky is widely credited as the first purely abstract painter: "There is no must in art because art is free". Here was true egalitarianism: arts evolved and flourished across every medium, spirits soared and an entire generation dreamt of a new world.
And then, everything changed. Stalin stomped down on this brave new creativity. Strict guidelines were imposed. The only art permitted by law was a new Socialist Realism, which glorified depictions of Communist ideals. Think idealised depictions of everyday life. Relevant, representative and understandable to the proleteriat. Think strong, healthy smiling, working men. Creativity was out, the cult of the dictator was in.
So the artistic landscape was split in two. And this fascinating schism is the subject of a new exhibition at the Royal Academy. Encompassing photography, sculpture, filmmaking and evocative propaganda posters from the golden era for graphic design, this transporting show will free Russian history from textbooks.
|What||Revolution: Russian Art, Royal Academy|
|Where||Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Green Park (underground)|
11 Feb 17 – 17 Apr 17, 11 February – 17 April 2017 10am – 6pm, Fridays until 10pm
|Price||£(without donation £16). Concessions available. Friends of the RA and under 16s go free.|
|Website||Click here for more information|