Back in the USSR

The October Revolution (1917) ended centuries of Czarist rule reshaping the Russian empire into the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Meanwhile Russian artists during those turbulent times were making their own revolutions breaking the old art rules with new ideas such as cubism, futurism and expressionism.

The exhibition “Art et Utopie Au Pays des Soviets” revisits Russian art from the avant-garde artists to the “Socialist Realism” years (up to Stalin’s death in 1953). The first part of the exhibition —with such works as Vladimir Tatline’s “Tower Maquette,” (1919) Rodtchenko’s “Red” (1921) and Kouzma Petrov-Vodkine’s ” Fantasy” (1925)—highlights the debates that animated the Soviet art scene in the aftermath of the revolution and into the 20’s questioning what form of art the new socialist society should take.

As Stalin consolidated his power, avant-garde ideas clashed with state-sponsored “Socialist Realism” and the politicization of the arts. The artistic utopia of a fusion of art and daily life was rapidly thwarted by the growing hostility to the avant-garde from the Bolsheviks, who believed in art that was “understandable to the masses.”

The exhibition concludes with film clips (1930’s-1940’s), Stalinist architecture, works by international artists who went to Russia inspired by the revolution such as John Heartfield and Diego Rivera and “Socialist Realist” paintings produced by such groups as the Society of Easel Artists in Moscow and the Leningrad Circle of Artists.

“Art et Utopie Au Pays des Soviets” To July 1, 2019, Grand Palais, Paris.